A Valley architect is among the "best of the best" according to the Robb Report, a magazine aimed at those able to afford a luxury lifestyle.

Optima founder and owner David Hovey said he was surprised to be included in the magazine’s June issue.

"I knew for sure when somebody showed me the article. I had been interviewed for the Robb Report, but it wasn’t clear to me what they were interviewing me for," Hovey said.

Dividing his time between the Valley and Chicago, Hovey said coming to the desert to design living spaces was a longtime goal.

"I looked coast to coast for someplace to build. I was interested in a location not just from a market point of view but architecturally significant — and in contrast with the flatness of Chicago and the Chicago climate," Hovey said.

"So that as an architect, I would be forced to rethink what a house should be."

Hovey has built custom homes in north Scottsdale and now has two ongoing multifamily projects. One is Optima Biltmore, which will include two 15-story condo- minium towers in the Camelback corridor. Construction has just begun on Optima Camelview, a condominium project just north of Scottsdale Fashion Square.

"My idea in coming to the Valley was to experiment with a handful of custom homes to learn how to build in the desert and then apply that to larger-scale projects," Hovey said.

He said his condominium projects aren’t about erecting tall towers in tight urban spaces.

"This isn’t like taking a building from Chicago and putting it here. We have great big outdoor recessed terraces," Hovey said.

The design for Optima Camelview has 11 five- to sixstory buildings on about 15 acres that use glass, water and sky bridges to connect them.

"You have a development of undulating volumes with a rich variety of shapes and shadows. There is no parking anywhere that’s on grade. You never see blacktop. You never see a parking space. It’s all underground," Hovey said.

All the roofs of the buildings will be covered with dirt and then planted with cactuses and other native plants in a strategy called green roofs.

"When you build with green roofs it helps to lower the overall ambient temperature. The heat isn’t radiating," Hovey said.

Attentive to science and technology, Hovey said he designs and builds using stateof the-art materials and systems that create energy efficient, user-friendly spaces.

"What should a home be in the future? Let’s not get hung up on the past," he said.

But nonetheless, it’s Hovey’s childhood that fuels his fascination with the desert.

A native of New Zealand, Hovey grew up around water that was so chaotic only surfers would brave it. The desert "is just as magnificent as the ocean. I would just like to stand in the desert and not move. Just look at the diversity of life," he said.

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