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UCLA | Jules Stein Eye Institute - 2017 Westside Urban Forum Honor Design Award Winner

Jules Stein Building reopens after $65M renovation to expand vision-science campus

With a sparkling renovation complete. The eponymous 90,000 SF Stein Eye Institute stands as an enduring institution dedicated to vision.


The brief presented numerous issues to be resolved. The building was well detailed and maintained; however, UCLA recognized the need for sustainable improvements. One of the primary catalysts of the renovation was the need for structural reinforcement to meet seismic codes. The building was completed in an era prior to the advancements in carbon fiber wrap technology. The fiber wrap reinforcement simplified the work behind the stone façade to allow for a masterful disguised result. 


Slated for LEEDTM Platinum, the building is now suffused with sunlight, penny-pinching energy systems and integrated color signage. The new three-story entrance atrium connects the entrance at the entrance plaza with the upper entrance and garden. State of the art examination rooms and modern wet labs provide for advanced vision and science research.


The original eye institute building presages postmodernism and was built in 1966, the same year that Robert Venturi’s seminal book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture was published. The classically inspired flagship building frontally anchors a new plaza and rubs shoulders intimately with a new modernist building designed in stark contrast to the original buildings.  The pink marble cladding and colossal travertine colonnade of the original building are a talisman of the institute.


The branding, materiality and form of the project mediated between the rigorous asymmetrical modernity of the new modernist building, and classically inspired symmetry. The original building is derived from a renaissance palazzo. Re-skinning the colonnade at the piano nobile was considered; however, for seismic reinforcement was not warranted.


The exterior design focused on the lower floors facing west where natural light could be introduced into the laboratories and lobbies. In essence, and in keeping with artifice, the lower façade is the rusticated base of the building. The base, entrance lobbies, fenestration and interior weave the original with the materiality, modularity and transparency of the new.


The project looked at many options to redefine the entrance which originally was identified by a massive travertine porte cochere. The redesign of the plaza introduced new crepe myrtles to veil the original windowless brick base (now fenestrated) and removed the porte cochere.


The new façade brings light into the entrance and laboratories. The choreography of light proved to be a sustainable factor. Rather than projecting outward, the new entrance proudly welcomes the visitor inward and serves as a transparent portal upon arrival. The travertine surrounds and wrapping entrance walls are influenced by the neighboring 30” rigid module of Meier. Asymmetry governs the composition of the lower façade and the stone is layered horizontally to blend and create a contrapuntal relationship between new, old and new-old.  


The project now meets the demands of environmental citizenship, 21st century research, and clinical care. The extraordinary accomplishment of the patrons was their founding of their eponymous eye institute. Today it stands as an enduring institution dedicated to our vision.

Type: Institutional, Lab

LEED Platinum Pending

Programming and Renovation: 85,000 SF
Architecture & Interiors: Stenfors Architects

Structural Engineering: Nabih Youssef Associates

MEP Engineering: Syska Hennesy Group

Lab Consultants: Jacobs Consulting

Lighting Consultants: Lighting Design Alliance

Landscape Consultants: Pamela Burton, Inc.

Status: Built

The Jules Stein Eye Institute is at the southern gateway to the UCLA Campus and part of the David Geffen School of Medicine. The site design reflects the classical architectural interests of the patrons, who 
believed that great design would create an 
uplifting environment for patients, visitors and staff.


Conceived by Welton Becket as a modern
day campidoglio, the layout of the three 
buildings of the Eye Institute complement each other in function and provide nearly 300,000 square feet of dedicated space for patient care, education, research, and community service.

Lobby areas are spacious, well lit, and give visitors a spectacular view out towards the plazas from a higher perspective and at plaza level. A new atrium connects the building's lobby levels and allows light to pass through from the roof to the ground floor.

The laboratory space was redesigned and equiped with research tools suitable to the standards of the 21st century lab.

From left: Existing stone removed at structural column in preparation for seismic upgrade; Existing structural column with new fiber-wrap seismic bracing installed and prepared for finish; Final concealed exterior seismically-reinforced column, typical, with stone cladding reinstalled over fiber-wrap system.

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