As generations of students, faculty and Hollywood filmmakers already appreciate, the UCLA campus is an extraordinary array of architectural wonders. But some of its aesthetic joys are tucked away out of sight and unknown to most, such as the Adam Room.
Adjacent to the UCLA Stein Eye Institute’s auditorium, the Adam Room is a late-18th-century room named after Robert Adam, an influential British architect and interior designer in Georgian England.
The elegant space was originally a withdrawing room in the Upton House in 1780s England. The Bonnells, a wealthy merchant family, had commissioned Adam to design and build the house.
"The most beautiful room on campus." UCLA's Adam Room was originally constructed in 1780s England. Explore the space...Posted by UCLA on Thursday, December 10, 2020
In 1960, after the manor had fallen apart, the room ended up at an antiques fair in London, where it was purchased by Dr. Jules Stein, an ophthalmologist who installed the room in his New York City apartment.
Dr. Stein and his wife, Doris, were advocates for vision science, focused on blindness prevention and improving the quality of eye research. In 1966, the UCLA Stein Eye Institute opened its doors, working to develop fundamental knowledge about the eye.
After the Steins died in the early 1980s, Doris’ son Gerald Oppenheimer donated the Adam Room at auction to UCLA in 1989. Included in the donation were the room’s torchères, or ornamental stands for candles, and its pole screens, which were used in the 18th century to shield people’s faces from the heat of the fireplace.
However, the room was lacking a key Adamesque design element: a ceiling featuring his famous, delicate plasterwork. Oppenheimer commissioned two designers to re-create one at the Universal Studios craft shop in Los Angeles.
On the north and south ends of the room are panels of block-printed wallpaper, probably French, circa 1800, that feature pastoral images. These panels fill in for where there were windows in the walls of the Steins’ apartment.
The Adam Room is occasionally opened for events and tours, led by curator emerita Victoria Steele, who has said it’s the most beautiful room on campus.
There are other extraordinary rooms within the Stein Eye complex, but the Adam Room remains a unique experience at UCLA.