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Medical Center Plaza makes an inspired first impression as campus gateway

Medical Center Plaza makes an inspired first impression as campus gateway

How do you paint a big picture on a compact canvas?

Just look at the new gateway to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medical Center.

The Medical Center Plaza at 42nd and Leavenworth Streets marks the southern entrance to the state’s only public academic health science center, as well as to a hospital that Newsweek ranks 56th on its list of the World’s Best Hospitals.

Completed in fall 2019, the roughly one-acre plaza features a major installation by a world-class sculptor, pays tribute to a longtime university researcher and invites passers-by to take a moment and reflect. 

“Visitors who travel up 42nd Street to our campus will have a first impression that matches the extraordinary patient care, research and education that takes place within our campus,” UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., said at the dedication ceremony.

Olsson, in partnership with Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, provided master planning, civil and mechanical engineering, site design, landscape architecture, surveying, geotechnical, environmental services and construction materials testing.

The project, constructed by Kiewit Building Group, included demolition of an existing building and concrete, over-excavation of poor soils, import and compaction of new soil, before the structural bases and sidewalks could be constructed. New sidewalks were also constructed.

Olsson coordinated with Metro to move a bus stop, the City of Omaha to relocate storm sewers and Omaha Public Power District to remove or relocate several power poles. Olsson met regularly with stakeholders, adjusted on the fly to tackle all contingencies and met the deadline.

The plaza features lighted, curved walkways, mature trees and 18 colorful Jun Kaneko-designed “columns” rising from a low, curving wall. Each slip-and-glaze piece weighs 3,000 pounds and stands 13 feet.

The sculptures are displayed on two concrete plinths. One is serpentine and rises from 12 inches to approximately 5 feet; the other is circular and gradually rises in height.

The plaza also displays a plaque recognizing Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., a professor for more than two decades in UNMC’s Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience. Her work as co-director of the Translational Mouse Model Core Facility has supported greater understanding of human immunity and vaccines. Polina and Robert Schlott, the professor’s daughter and son-in-law, were lead donors to the plaza project.

Olsson also coordinated with the medical center on the installation of two monument signs for the future Davis Global Center. Olsson coordinated significant redesign of the drainage, grading and landscaping to support the installation.

The work continues Olsson’s involvement in reshaping the south end of the campus. Other projects the firm has partnered in include the Truhlsen Eye Institute and Lauritzen Outpatient Center to the east of the new plaza.

Olsson is a nationally recognized engineering firm made up of people who craft expert solutions and designs that improve communities. The firm offers design and consulting services in planning and design, engineering, field services, environmental and technology. For more information, go to

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