A Healing Sculpture For Veterans in Palo Alto


va-concreteVeterans Affairs Health Care System | Palo Alto

Triumph | Sculpture of Granite and Steel

Principal In Charge:  Mark A. Moore | Project Engineer:  Matt Frantz

A recent study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed the shocking statistic that roughly 20 veterans take their own lives each day. Government programs and concerned citizens have been working to support those who have suffered trauma, and one approach has been through the use of interactive art.

Richard Deutsch, an American sculptor was federally commissioned to create a public sculpture for the Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Palo Alto. He conceived of an art installation that would become a dynamic part of the healing process and offer a experiential and lyrical environment.

The final design was a central sculpture composed of seven large interconnected steel rings reaching 38 feet in the air surrounded by vertical granite slabs rising out of the earth and standing up to 12 feet tall.
Feats of Modern Engineering

Have you ever wondered how some art installations seem to defy gravity? Many sculptures are simultaneously feats of art and modern engineering. Richard Deutsch describes this collaboration between artist and engineer: “The distinction between sculptor and engineer can be blurred, particularly when a sculpture is composed of engineered structures.”

Matt Frantz, Senior Associate, is a leader in ZFA's sculpture practice and has worked on projects with Mr. Deutsch since 2012. “To ensure we got things right, we utilized a 3D model during the engineering process,” said Matt. “There were some unexpected challenges which arose, such as how to support the massive vertical granite slabs, and the interconnection of the steel rings.  Through collaboration with the artist we found a sound, elegant solution to both.”

The ZFA team elected to utilize stainless steel rods to provide stability to the granite slabs which weighed as much as 33,000 pounds each, and tapered towards the base offering only a narrow edge on which to anchor and balance them. To create the seven interlocking oval CoreTen steel rings, the team collaborated with Tesla Motors utilizing with their specialized diamond wire saw.

The sculpture was unveiled this summer and is known as Triumph. Triumph is situated in front of the Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center and welcomes all who pass by.  

The Heartfelt Words of General Colin L. Powell

On a large granite wall you will find the words of General Colin L. Powell* inscribed:

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

It was an honor to work with Mr. Deutsch again, and to be part of this important project.

*excerpted from his 2011 welcome-home speech, delivered at the Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

To see other ZFA art installation projects click here.