Set in the middle of a prairie in Grand Island, Neb., the new Grand Island Regional Medical Center is distinguished by a barn-red patient tower that rises above the landscape and appears as a glowing lantern at night. The 173,000-square-foot facility was initiated by a group of local doctors who sought to offer a community-focused healthcare experience.

Starting around 2014, the group of approximately 10 physicians, as well as local partners, began developing the concept of a health and wellness campus anchored by the new Grand Island Regional hospital with an adjoining 66,000-square-foot medical office building. “We [the doctors] have approximately 110 acres total with a vision to develop other health support services,” says Dr. Ryan Crouch, internal medicine specialist at the new facility and one of the leaders of the doctors’ group.

For the development’s location, the project team selected a former cornfield at the crossroads of two major roadways running in and out of the community and adjacent to the historic Stuhr Museum—a decision that led to the new Grand Island Regional Medical Center’s regionally influenced design approach. “It really needed to be something that worked with the landscape [and surrounding context],” says William DeRoin, design principal at HDR (Omaha, Neb.), which served as the architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture firm for the hospital.

At four floors high, the facility features a two-story patient tower atop a precast, patterned ledgestone, ground-level plinth, which houses emergency services, surgery, labor and delivery, imaging, and diagnostics on the first floor, along with a pharmacy, conference room, and café. Primary mechanical systems are integrated into the second floor—a move that allowed the 64-bed patient tower, which is clad in red metal panels to achieve the rural red barn vernacular, to be elevated over the landscape and have expansive, framed views. “We really wanted to have this elevated patient tower that’s an iconic red element,” says DeRoin. “You can see it from a distance, but it still feels like an appropriate height for the surrounding area.”

To further create a beacon to the community, the red façade is dotted with tiny windows, in reference to a tin lantern, and backlit at night through accent lighting. The interior near each window features a different full-height image of a Midwest landscape, which can be seen from the outside and creates a tapestry of color through the windows. “The regional visuals not only help patients and loved ones feel connected to their home but also strengthen Grand Island Regional Medical Center’s connection to its rural surroundings,” says Laura Franzluebbers, senior interior designer at HDR.

Furthermore, the campus is designed to support a healthy lifestyle through access to open-air activities, including a hiking and bike trail built around the campus, which will eventually connect to a network of nearby trails.

Look inside
The overall aesthetic of the hospital combines the regional vernacular with a clean, modern, timeless look inspired by the Stuhr Museum, which was designed by architect Edward Durrell Stone. “Across the street to the east is a modernist icon of the Great Plains. So we wanted something that could have a language with that and feel contextual,” says DeRoin. The solution, he says, was ensuring all the public spaces had great windows and light, while focusing on clean, simple lines and materials. Daylight streams in through massive glass curtain walls on each end of the tower, where waiting areas are located.

Integrating the mechanical equipment on the interstitial second floor instead of the more traditional placement on the rooftop not only helped the design team ensure those clean lines were achieved but also allows for future expansion. For example, DeRoin says the inpatient tower is designed to accommodate two additional floors of vertical expansion, while the ground level can easily expand out.

The neutral color and materials palette throughout the interiors includes warm accents in wood and stone to contribute to an inviting environment. Franzluebbers says elements such as ledgestone (which also appears on the exterior) are placed intentionally to communicate hearth, comfort, and home—for example, the application of ledgestone to a fireplace separating the café from the conference room.

Future growth
As the hospital recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, the campus continues to flourish. A multimillion-dollar rehabilitation and assisted living community adjacent to the hospital are being constructed by Tabitha Health Systems, while a hotel and retail amenities on the south side of the site also are planned. Furthermore, Crouch says he anticipates further development for the medical office space, with some providers already showing interest in moving their facilities there. “[The hope] is to continue to grow and strengthen our services for the community,” he says. “It’s exciting to see how it could grow.”


Project details:

Project name: Grand Island Regional Medical Center

Project completion date: August 2020

Owner: Grand Island Regional Medical Center

Total building area: 173,000 sq. ft.

Total construction cost: $68 million

Cost/sq. ft.: $393

Architect: HDR

Interior designer: HDR

Food service designer: Worrel Design

Vertical transportation designer: Lerch Bates

Acoustics designer: Colin Gordon Associates

General contractor: Chief Construction, Sampson Construction (joint venture)

Engineers: HDR (MEP, structural, lighting, landscape), Olsson Associates (civil)

Builder: Chief Construction, Sampson Construction (joint venture)

Art/pictures: Jorn Olsen Photography (interior photo graphics)

AV equipment/electronics/software: Kidwell

Carpet/flooring: Miliken, Gerflor, Mannington, Atlas Concorde, Crossville Inc.

Ceiling/wall systems: Rulon International Inc., Armstrong World Industries

Doors/locks/hardware: Masonite Architectural, Curries | Assa Abloy

Fabric/textiles: Carnegie, Arc-Com, Architex, Maharam, Brentano, Designtex, Luta, Camira, Pallas, Anzea, Knoll Textiles, Concertex LLC

Furniture—seating/casegoods: OFS, Davis Furniture, Carolina, Leland International, IOA, Nemschoff, Global, ERG International, Humanscale, Spec Furniture, Martin Battered, Hightower

Handrails/wall guards: Construction Specialties

Headwalls/booms: Modular Services Company

Lighting: Prudential Lighting Company, SPI Lighting, Amerlux, Focal Point

Signage/wayfinding: HDR (design), Love Signs (fabrication and install)

Surfaces—solid/other: Bellavati, Corian, Cambria, Formica, Wilsonart

Wallcoverings: Designtex, Momentum/D.L. Couch

Other: Mechoshade, Skyline Design

Joann Plockova is a freelance writer based between Jupiter, Fla., and Prague, Czech Republic. She can be reached at