Veteran’s Healthcare Campus, Palo Alto, California

Triumph, 2017

Recently completed, Triumph is an artful 5,000-square-foot environment that graces the front entry of the new Polytrauma and Blindness Center at the Veteran’s Health Campus near Stanford, California. Triumph is a symbolic multi-component art-environment project designed to be an active part of the VA’s comprehensive holistic rehabilitation program. This environment is intended to be experiential for both blind and severely injured veterans, their families, and the visitors of the healthcare campus. Patients having experienced trauma typically stay at this facility three to six months. As an environment to be visited many times during their stay, Triumph serves as a beacon, a gathering site, a site for events, as well as a place for contemplation and discovery.

Triumph started with writing workshops that I held for the Polytrauma patients to further understand their thoughts, psychology, and needs. Identity, loyalty, sacrifice, unity, challenge, strength, overcoming adversity, and renewal were the sentiments expressed by the Polytrauma and Blindness patients as the bases for the art concept. The art components, visible from all locations of the campus, include a symbolic, central 40-foot-tall landmark sculpture (loyalty) that punctuates the site while celebrating the seven active-duty federal uniformed military services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps. These various departments of the military are united, interconnected, and dedicated to working together with the goal of keeping our country safe. The central sculpture symbolizes this unity. Its construction was inspired by historic Army Corp of Engineers military bridge construction utilizing the “bridge I-beam materials” of weathered steel familiar to all military personnel.

A 12-ton granite “flag sculpture” encouraging touch and exploration by blind and injured veterans is inscribed with a quote of appreciation written by General Colin Powell explicitly for this sculpture. Three playful, interactive oval granite sculptures are placed throughout the site, encouraging tactile exploration by blind patients and others. Sculptural granite seating creates a contemplative area for repose and for gathering. Triumph was created to uplift the VA patients emotionally and inspire their spirit of renewal.

“You care so deeply about this country,
Its ideals of democracy and freedom
You humble us with your commitment to duty
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts
For all of your service and your sacrifice
For your devotion and loyalty”
General Colin L. Powell, 2011