Project category: Project in progress (completed June 2010)

Chief administrator: Pat Sullivan, Director, (224) 610-3771

Firm: RLF, (407) 647-1039

Design team: Robert Yohe, Project Manager/Medical Planner; Jason Towers, Project Designer; Cindy McGinnis, Project Architect; Barry Fiedler, Project Mechanical Engineer; Donald Sellers, Project Electrical Engineer

Total building area (sq. ft.): 208,000 (new); 40,000 (renovation)

Construction cost/sq. ft.: Not Released

Total construction cost (excluding land): Not Released

This project is a major addition/alteration to an existing 383,000-sq.-ft. VA facility in North Chicago, Illinois, that combines and consolidates the functions of the existing VA Medical Center and nearby Naval Clinic Great Lakes to create a groundbreaking new joint Federal Healthcare Facility. The addition includes 208,000 square feet of both primary and specialty care outpatient clinics. The project also includes 40,000 square feet of clinical and inpatient renovation and a nominal 500-car parking structure.

The design solution focuses on the front of the existing hospital, creating an extension from the north/south spine that clarifies and reinforces the entry into the facility by creating a new entry lobby and concourse connection between the existing facility and new outpatient wing. The new entry lobby connector is conceptually a filter between outside and inside, exploring transparencies through materiality. The exterior offers visual moments of interior activity for the visitor through an alternating rhythm of stone precast panels and translucent glazing. Along the alternating material sequence, a moment of transparency protrudes to the exterior, allowing an aligned visual axis to the addition's atrium space.

Within the outpatient addition, clinical area is arranged around a four-story atrium space. The floor from the main level folds down into the basement level through a grand stair. The roof of the atrium is a series of folded planes that allow daylight to flood the hall, while waiting space circulates around the floor openings at each level.

The exterior material combination of brick, precast, and glass operate in the same conceptual notion of the folding planes, negotiating inside and outside. The main mass is identified as two rectilinear brick boxes, with precast elements folding from the faces, thus highlighting vertical circulation and semipublic spaces. The north façade is punctuated by three precast volumes projecting from a plane of glass and brick that appears to float above the sloping ground plane.

The project ushers in a new era in federal healthcare in that it is the first true, full-partner, joint venture between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense. The efforts of the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and VA in development of the Federal Healthcare Facility will pave the way for future partnership arrangements. The architecture of the project supports this collaborative effort by fully integrating the clinical functions of both agencies in an uplifting, invigorating building environment.