Proposed Munger Hall Design at UC Santa Barbara

Architect Quits in Protest Over UC Santa Barbara Nightmare Dorm Proposal

Dennis McFadden called Munger Hall a “social and psychological experiment.”

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The United States is currently in the throes of a housing shortage, with an estimated shortage of more than 5 million homes. This housing shortage also extends to colleges and universities, which have seen a growth in enrollment without the dormitories to properly house their students.

In an effort to address this, billionaire Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger donated $200 million towards student housing at UC Santa Barbara. The massive donation, which was announced in 2016, came with a caveat: Munger would only donate the funds if his design was followed.

Many wondered what the 97-year-old investor had in mind for his proposed Munger Hall. The answer is a mega-dorm that could house more than 4,500 students. It also closely resembles a prison. Munger Hall is an “11-story, 1.68-million-square-foot building [that] would include rooms occupied by up to eight students, many in interior spaces. About 94% of the units would not have windows, with no access to sunlight or fresh air.”

Because fresh air and sunlight are overrated, am I right? People have been quick to criticize the prison-like conditions of the dormitory, including longtime UC Santa Barbara consulting architect Dennis McFadden, who quit in protest. In an op-ed for the L.A. Times, McFadden writes,

For students assigned to bedrooms in the center of the building, the experience would be comparable to living at second base and being forced to walk to the center field wall to find out if it’s cloudy outside. Or, another analogy: living in a janitor’s closet buried in the center of an Ikea warehouse, with the closest window somewhere back at the entrance.

He continued,

Munger Hall is an answer to the housing shortage and growth pressures currently facing the university. It is also an alien and destructive presence out of tune and out of scale with the rest of the campus. Worse, the building is a misguided experiment that will affect the health and safety of multiple generations of undergraduates who will be forced to negotiate the design’s gross miscalculations and unintended consequences — long after the story of how and why it came to be is forgotten.

And while university officials have praised the building, many people are calling out the callousness and cruelty of the design. The proposed building evokes turn-of-the-century tenement housing and dystopian fiction simultaneously. It’s also a chilling reminder of what happens when we allow privatization to take over public spaces and put our public resources at the mercy of billionaires.

What’s truly bizarre is that Munger’s $200 million donation is a drop in the bucket for the proposed mega-dorm, which is estimated to cost $1.5 billion. So, the guy who pays for 13 percent of the building gets to dictate exactly how it looks?! Make it make sense, UC Santa Barbara.

(via L.A. Times, image: Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.