Currently I am under commission for a federal project located at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. The project goal was to design an artistic environment located directly in front of the new Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center on a 5000-square-foot oval. The title of the project is Triumph, an experiential, lyrical environment conceived to be touched as well as seen.

Triumph is made up of several sculptures and incorporates granite seating, paving, a series of interactive granite sculptures, and a central 40-foot vertical Cor-Ten steel sculpture viewable from all parts of the campus. The tall vertical sculpture, central to the oval, is meant to be part of the integrated front aesthetic in conjunction with the architecture to punctuate the identity of the new rehabilitation center. The sculpture itself is like a “line drawing” in space. One’s eye can pass through the sculpture and see the architecture clearly. The material, Cor-Ten steel, becomes a warm rusted color that works well with the pale orange hues of the terracotta tiles and glass cladding to become an integrated composition. There are several granite sculptures which are meant to be felt or read by the visually impaired. The word Triumph is depicted in bronze letters on the front of the granite main wall and is also written in an exaggerated Braille. On the right part of the wall is a bronze maquette that can be felt and handled. This is meant to inform the visually impaired of the design of the main Cor-Ten sculpture to its left.

Triumph celebrates and appreciates the dedication, service, and sacrifice that veterans have given to our country. General Colin Powell has graciously approved our use of his heartfelt words of appreciation excerpted from his 2011 welcome-home speech, delivered at the Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. These words, directly addressing our veterans, convey the sentiment and humanity of General Powell’s speech and are inspirational and fitting to be at the heart of this artful environment.

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

Purpose of the Building

One of five such facilities in the country, the Palo Alto Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center provides intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries, including brain injuries, to more than one organ system. Many of these veterans also need mental health support.

Due to the severity and complexity of their injuries, polytrauma patients require a high level of integration and coordination of clinical care and support services. Major advances in protective gear and medical technology have increased the survival rates of U.S. service members sustaining severe multiple injuries in recent combat operations. Recognizing early on the importance of providing coordinated and comprehensive rehabilitation services to support recovery from polytrauma, Veterans Affairs developed a specialized Polytrauma System of Care, the hallmark of which is a patient-centered, interdisciplinary approach that works with the injured individual and his or her family to address all aspects of the injury as it impacts the person’s life. The new center will be the most advanced facility of its kind in the world.

The art environment Triumph is meant to be a dynamic part of the healing process for the patients of the Palo Alto Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center.

Richard Deutsch