Serving Those Who Served

To replace the VA Medical Center, lost to Hurricane Katrina, the Southeast Louisiana Veteran Healthcare System’s (SLVHCS) replacement hospital — “Project Legacy” — sets new standards for VA’s patient-centered care, in a facility that honors veterans’ service and reflects the culture of New Orleans.

Veteran healthcare often differs from that of the wider population: for instance, physical wounds may be linked to psychological trauma, requiring that physicians treat both conditions simultaneously. Furthermore, southeast Louisiana lags U.S. averages in life expectancy, education and income, posing additional challenges to care. SLVHCS intervenes at the nexus of these unique populations.

Extensive interviews and research with VA patients and staff gave the design team an empathetic understanding of veterans’ unique healthcare needs. Additional research into New Orleans’ streets and courtyards helped generate a design that fits the urban context.

Functioning much like a city street, a central concourse organizes the entire campus. The concourse links atriums that open into the large program blocks, which are subdivided into smaller buildings and separated by green courtyards that resemble the intimate gardens of the French Quarter.

Overall, the campus includes 200 inpatient beds, 370 outpatient exam rooms, 21 procedural suites, ambulatory clinics, emergency and imaging departments, behavioral health services, patient education facilities, transitional living and outpatient rehabilitation, parking garages, a central energy plant and a research building.

Weathering the Storm

A five-day capability to operate independently applies the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina to create a resilient hospital infrastructure. The facility can remain fully operational without outside support during a disaster, with enough provisions and accommodations for up to 1,000 staff and patients.

Veteran-Centered Design

Color, material and spatial cues were designed specifically with Louisiana veterans’ needs in mind. For instance, the central concourse simplifies navigation and eases anxiety for first-time visitors. Restrooms are located near the entrance and clearly marked, for patients who have driven a long distance from their homes.

Because color-blindness affects veterans in disproportionately high numbers, the color palette predominantly features colors like blue that are more recognizable to the vision-impaired. Some colors were chosen to celebrate military service; others, including some sandy or olive-drab hues, were avoided to prevent associations with battleground areas.

Furniture selections and layouts were also deliberate. A range of furniture sizes accommodates a variety of body types, and layouts are designed to be flexible to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. By placing seating arrangements against walls and partitions, patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress have the ability to survey their surroundings, which further reduces anxiety.

“ Project Legacy is not only about restoring and improving health care services for Southeast Louisiana veterans. It’s also about rebuilding New Orleans, rebuilding lives and rebuilding hope. ”

Julie Catellier Director, SLVHCS

Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive Reuse
Adaptive Reuse



Engineering News-Record, Best of the Best Health Care Award
CMAA Gulf Coast Chapter Best Project Achievement Awards, Healthcare Winner


Healthcare Design, “Voices of Veterans, Staff Shape New VA Hospital,” April 18, 2017
Wall Street Journal, “New VA Hospital in New Orleans May Serve as a Model,” February 28, 2017
Bloomberg Businesweek, “Designing an Upside-Down, Hurricane-Proof Hospital for New Orleans,” August 14, 2014
Commercial Property Executive, “VA Breaks Ground on New Orleans Hospital Designed for Future Katrinas,” June 28, 2010
Engineering News-Record Texas & Lousiana, “Public Projects Dominate Top Starts,” April 18, 2011
Architect, “Recovery Rooms,” August 2011
Times-Picayune, “New VA Medical Center is ‘going to be a dandy,’ federal official promises,” August 21, 2011
Healthcare Construction + Operations, “New Orleans’ Hurricane Proof VA Hospital,” August 8, 2012
Medical Construction & Design, “‘Defend in place’: Key strategies to prepare hospitals to withstand emergencies,” January/Feburary 2013