After being commissioned to design a new welcome center for the Veterans Affairs Menlo Park campus, I immediately drove over to understand the site and overall surrounding campus. I was pleased to see that the site was flat and being used as an open park. Even though there wasn’t much to it, the park was quite a pleasant place in the context of the campus. It was simply an open lawn surrounded by a concrete path. However, another path cut through the center of the park leading to a monument and salvaged cupola that had adorned the previous building that resided there. I learned that the simply named “Building 105” built in 1922 was nationally recognized as housing the best drug and alcohol rehab center for veterans until it was demolished in 1996.
I wanted the design to compliment the retreat atmosphere the park created for the campus but also pay homage to “Building 105.” I first started by adding an additional space to the program which I called the Healing Garden, a tranquil and refreshing space nestled between the building and a crescent shaped berm. I included a fountain at the center of the Healing Garden and aligned it with the front entrance doors to allure visitors through the building. Then I organized the recreation, therapeutic kitchen, yoga and fitness and therapy rooms around the garden to give constant visual connection to the space. I literally designed the building from the outside in. Finally, even though the V.A. administrators were willing to part with dry rotted cupola, I had it fully restored and crowned my building with it.
Today, the building houses a new, nationally-renowned program for service dog training intervention which is the first of its kind. The program offers therapeutic interventions for Veterans and active-duty military personnel by teaching those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to train service dogs for their comrades with combat related physical disabilities. Veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD and train a service dog report less anxiety and depression.
Architect: Tolbert Design Architects
Structural Engineer: JR Structural
Mechanical Engineer: Therma
Electrical Engineer: Redwood City Group
Plumbing: KDS Plumbing
Civil Engineer: Sandis
Fire Protection Engineer: BFP Fire Protection