Colorful Valley Health Center in Downtown San Jose is the long-awaited answer to medical needs of underserved populations nearby

RATCLIFF takes architectural cues from local habitat and multi-cultural communities in design of new county health center, rated LEED Gold for sustainability.


Situated at a transit gateway to downtown San Jose, served by a future BART station and a major bus corridor, the Valley Health Center at 725 East Santa Clara Street that opened June 13, 2016 connects three vicinities that have lacked medical services. The center has risen on the grounds of the old San Jose Medical Center that closed in 2004.

The architecture features rhythmic placement of rainbow-colored glass fins and integrated horizontal sunshade screens with judicious but extensive use of multi-color glass panels throughout the building. The bold colors pay tribute to Mexican architect Luis Barragan and artists such as Diego Rivera, but also impart a strong visual identity to the building, intended to have an uplifting effect on patients and staff.

The 62,000 square foot, $38 million Valley Health Center is owned and operated by Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) and Gardner Family Health Network.  It serves a young, multi-ethnic population with a high dependence on public healthcare services.  The facility supports a wide range of services, including family medicine, pediatrics, ob/gyn, laboratory, pharmacy, radiology and behavioral health.  It features an urgent care clinic that is open for extended hours seven days a week.

In recent years both government and private entities have been actively promoting the development of high-rise projects in the San Jose city center. However, in the larger downtown area vast tracts of early 20th century single-family residences still predominate. There is a historic district that dates back to the Spanish era. Many residents are of Hispanic descent, exceeding 60 percent of the population in neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the facility. Therefore while it must serve future needs of a developing city, the facility also acknowledges the unique heritage and setting of downtown San Jose.
The building envelope allows in natural light but keeps out heat and solar exposure in the warm climate. Visitors encounter abundant natural light, warm wood paneling, clear wayfinding signage, and an LED star ceiling. Large, sunny waiting rooms on upper levels afford city views, and waiting room walls are treated for noise reduction. Careful attention was paid to eliminating environmental stressors and toxins.

The design team took a comprehensive approach to addressing flexibility, beginning with the building structural system and working down to the size and infrastructure of individual rooms. Physician offices can be converted to clinical spaces without requiring a remodel, for example. The site will also allow for addition of a new MOB by replacing the existing surface parking lot with a multi-level structure.

Many clients will rely on public transit, and the facility is located at a transit gateway to downtown, served by a major bus corridor and future BART station.  The decision to locate the facility at a transit gateway was a significant factor in its attaining LEED Gold certification for new construction.  Mandated by the County to achieve Silver, the project team raised the bar with elements including:

  • Community connectivity – pedestrian-friendly open spaces and convenience to public transportation
  • Cool roof and reflective site paving
  • Water efficient plumbing fixtures
  • Minimized irrigation of landscaping and use of reclaimed water
  • High performance building envelope with solar control to minimize heat loss and gain
  • Abundant daylight and views in public areas
  • Thermal comfort with healthy, energy-efficient ventilation system for overall indoor spaces
  • Reduced indoor air pollution with non-toxic building materials and furniture
  • Use of sustainably harvested wood
  • High percentage of recycled construction waste

The designers also achieved a PG&E Savings by Design rebate of $150,000 for energy
efficient design that exceeds California Title 24 standards.

This entry was posted in ArchNews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.