U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Omaha VA Ambulatory Care Center
Category: Built- More than $25 million (construction cost)
This project, the first-ever public-private partnership venture for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, arose from community concern about compassionate care for veterans. It supports an aging facility, built in 1950, that strained to provide adequate services to a growing population of veterans. A standout among the department’s more than 1,200 facilities, the inspired architecture offers a meaningful experience for both patients and staff.
“The architects were able to provide an uplifting spirit through their use of color that referenced military ribbons and created an interesting play of color inside” - Jury comment
From conception to completion, the project was driven by an engaged community. In 2010, the existing medical center was passed over for planned replacement, prompting a group of concerned citizens to rally Congress to pass the CHIP IN for Vets Act. When it passed, the law provided an opportunity to combine $30 million in donations with $56 million of previously allocated federal funds to envision and build a new clinic building.
The arrangement allowed the team to use a collaborative delivery method while remaining flexible in order to adapt the VA’s design guidelines to project-specific criteria. To that end, the center was built in nearly half the time and at a significant savings compared to the department’s similar projects.
The care center’s programming alleviates the strain on the legacy hospital by shifting primary and secondary care to an outpatient setting. Across its three stories, the center has eight primary-care clinics, a specialty care clinic, a radiology department, and a lab and pharmacy. It joins the existing hospital through an enclosed, split-core connector.
A new gateway to the campus is formed by the architecture and expressed through three bold aesthetic strokes that unfold throughout the design, bolstering the experience for the community it serves. While all three are inspired by symbolism, they strive toward experiential impact.
“In what can sometimes be a sterile environment, the architects brought a level of delight by not shying away from color and using it skillfully in the design.” - Jury comment
The center’s north facade is inspired by a rippling flag, guiding veterans and staff to the entryway. It wraps the waiting area, designed as one continuous space to promote social connections. The west facade, which encloses the clinic vestibule and pedestrian connector, uses multicolor glazing to evoke military ribbons. In the waiting area, a layered limestone wall guides patients on their path to their care environments. The wall’s form and materiality are reminiscent of the layers of soil veterans have tracked home during times of conflict and peace.
“The architects were able to provide an uplifting spirit through their use of color that referenced military ribbons and created an interesting play of color inside,” said the jury. “In what can sometimes be a sterile environment, the architects brought a level of delight by not shying away from color and using it skillfully in the design.”