Billionaire investor Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, apparently has both architectural ambitions and terrible design instincts. The 97-year-old Munger donated $200 million towards the construction of a massive dormitory for U.C. Santa Barbara "with the condition that his blueprints be followed exactly," according to the Santa Barbara Independent. Here's a rendering of what the 11-story, 1.7-million-square-foot, 4,500-student-capacity Munger Residence Hall would look like:
Looks completely average, right? Well, not if you look at the floorplan, which would be identical on each of the nine residential floors:
Yes, all of those tiny rectangles are rooms, and believe it or not 94% of them do not have windows. Each of the "House" divisions you see on the floorplan contain eight "Suites" which contain eight single-occupancy dorm rooms, all sharing a kitchen, bathroom, dining table and laundry facilities:
In lieu of a window, each dorm room (except for that lucky 6% located on an outside wall) has a "virtual window"—a window-sized LED light mounted in a horizontal orientation near the ceiling:
Those window substitutes "would have a knob to let [students] manipulate how much artificial light to let in to their rooms as a way to mimic daytime or evening," according to The New York Times.
Munger, who is not a licensed architect, had this to say about the "virtual windows:" "If you want it romantic and dim, you can make it romantic and dim. When in your life have you been able to change the sun? In this dorm, you can."
To the shock of Dennis McFadden, an architect and consultant on U.C. Santa Barbara's Design Review Committee for 14 years, Munger's blueprints were approved by the school with no vote nor input from the committee. McFadden resigned in protest.
"An ample body of documented evidence shows that interior environments with access to natural light, air, and views to nature improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of occupants," McFadden wrote in his resignation letter, which was leaked here. "The Munger Hall design ignores this evidence and seems to take the position that it doesn't matter.
"…As the 'vision' of a single donor, the building is a social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the university serves.
"In the nearly fifteen years I served as a consulting architect to the DRC, no project was brought before the committee that is larger, more transformational and potentially more destructive to the campus as a place than Munger Hall."
"The basic concept of Munger Hall as a place for students to live is unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent and a human being."
In contrast, U.C. Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang says that "[Munger's] inspired and revolutionary design concept for our new housing project will benefit the students who live there…Munger Hall will offer an unprecedented residential experience."
Furthermore, according to U.C. Santa Barbara News, Munger states that his design goal for the building was to make it "so much better than normal that it will become widely admired as among the best."
Don't have an account? Join Now
Create a Core77 Account
Already have an account? Sign In
Please enter your email and we will send an email to reset your password.
The plans shown do not meet building code egress requirements. Every sleeping room must have direct escape to outdoors. (Ever see a hotel room without a window?) CA building code states:
I heard they are going to replace all the water fountains with Brawndo dispensers!
Customers have "beautiful" ideas but no idea of how to make it real (model making, testing, prototyping, drawing, requestioning, etc), at the end architects and designers spend more time doing education than working on projects... And when power and money comes into the the recipe it's the end of the game. I would like to see the constructed building just to see it blown away after the students refuses to live in it. Unfortunately for the planet we need to make it blow before anyone could save it... or at least tries.
I refuse to work for a company that I can't sit near a window, I got an education and worked hard to live well, not to simply exist in a room with no nature, sunlight, view of the world. If the choice was to get an education and live in that room or not get an education, I would choose no education.
If you know a better way to disguise a human organ farm I'd like to see it.
This proves it, money, stupidity rule the world!
It has been quite a long time since mr. Munger attended college one can see.
How many students can't study if a single student throws a party on any of the 8+ floors?
Surely there must be building regulations to prevent this?!
I see no air-vent options anywhere (maybe I overlook it because it's so tiny)
The smell and noise must be horrible when all students are cramped in this box.
If Covid learned us (/me) anything it is the importance of fresh air and to be able to open a window.
Please offer mr. McFadden a new job asap!
He seems to deserve it.
The board that approved this trash should get the boot. This horrid!If I were a student I would never stay in that death trap. My mind is blown! This is again another multiverse trick.
i think its fair to say Mr. Munger is not very romantic, but definitely very very dim. Sarcasm aside. hotels and hostels without widows do exist and I have stayed in some as part of travelling to factories and trade fairs around Europe. A room without windows is okay for a short stay, especially with private bathrooms and good lounge and communal areas in the hotel where you can work and socialise. Also, in some cases the rooms are built in renovated industrial or office buildings so there was already a large floor space but limited windows and outer wall areas. Done right and for the right purpose (short stays) a room without windows can work. All that said, as many have pointed out in the comments, this building can surely not live up to basic fire safety laws? But then maybe this is another thing the US law system is willing to ignore when a billionaire is footing the bill. I have huge respect and admiration for the architect for quitting, it was the Chancellor who should be out of a job. I hope this building never gets built. If it does, it should be turned into a prison for tax evading billionaires and millionaires. Then the name of the building really fits its purpose.
What kind of person would want their name attached to a building that is destined to be loathed by all who subsist in it? Could Mr 2.3B Munger really not spring for something beautiful? Ridiculous.
8 people sharing 1 bathroom? yikes
Does this building live up to building safety standards? It would be interesting to see the rest of the plans. By going on McFaddens letter it seems like a nightmare in case of a fire, too many people, too few exits. Four and a half thousand people sharing eight stairwells. A population half the size of my childhood suburbs, with a building footprint that is barely larger than my high-school.
I doubt that Mungers "admired as among the best" will come true. Even a luxury shanty town is a shanty town in the end.
The design is claustrophobic at best. I found some enlargement photos and some of the rooms are literally at the end of a maze. It was apparently compared to a cruise ship, but the difference is that on a cruise ship you stay 7 days on average. Really stupid comparison. I feel sorry for the campus and the students.