Is this Giga Dorm Room planned by UC Santa Barbara and a billionaire a vision of the future?



What’s new friends who love architecture? It’s your boy Alberto who brings you a new architectural disaster, and just like last time at 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan, billionaires are to blame. But if last time we were dealing with a lean, brittle tower, this time we’re overcorrecting with a big boi: UC Santa Barbara’s oversized proposal for Munger Hall, an 11-story dormitory that will accommodate up to 4,500 students. .

Ok, opening this up as a lifestyle YouTuber was pretty squeaky, but please allow me a few more turbo-dorky jokes, please? So, Hmmm, UCSB… like, do you even know what negative space is? Hi guys! The Stalinist Soviet Union called, they demanded the return of their socialist-realist style.

But the rendering from the outside does not do this thing justice, nor does it capture the sequence of poor policies and decisions that led to him being enlightened after a few years of recovery. The entire background of this building is something only the most hacked of writers could imagine, if they were tasked with writing a metaphor about class inequality and the erosion of public education .

Meet Charles Munger, the namesake and principal financier of Munger Hall… and something else. Ninety-seven, right-hand man to Warren Buffett and vice president of Berkshire Hathaway, with a fortune of between $ 1.5 billion and $ 2 billion. As with far too many entries for billionaires from shady families on Wikipedia, I have to technically describe him as a philanthropist through the hundreds of millions he has donated to universities, earmarking them to build dormitories.

This in itself is a much more useful donation to a university than buying a sixth ballet hall or third indoor pool, except that Munger’s donations have always come with a condition sine qua non. Like me, Munger is a frustrated architect, an aficionado who now has all the time and money in the world to devote himself to this passion. But instead of, say, investing the last years of his life to go back to college, or simply paying architecture professors from the best universities in the world to prepare a personalized study program for him, he cut all the frills and middlemen, learned how to use AutoCAD and decided he would design the buildings he financed himself, and if those filthy United wanted the money they so badly needed, then they would have to follow suit. his instructions to the letter of the law. The letter! As it turns out, Munger has some very peculiar ideas on how to navigate the use of space.

As this Slate article explains, Munger’s Faustian deal was offered to a university system absolutely desperate to fill the financial gap, severely and deliberately underfunded, as with any other public system in the United States that does something else. than to send cyborgs in their twenties to the third country in the world to defend freedom. Like every other public institution in the United States, the universities he donated bent over backwards to please the billionaire’s ego. After all, they’re all competing for the same pool of students who are more interested in going to high school but without parents or curfews than studying.

Munger made this donation design pact with several universities and a prep school, his biggest contribution to date being a dormitory for the University of Michigan. He shares a common trait with UCSB’s Munger: the rooms have no windows. Only the common areas in a perimeter that encircles the apartments… I can’t describe it and do it justice, look at the floor plans yourself:

Rooms within rooms within rooms, like the fractal of a prison, because yes, the smallest of the rectangles are the rooms and the bathrooms themselves. And since we’re talking about prisons, well:

Shall I rephrase: that’s 4,500 students stored in a gigantic structure the size of a block, 156,000 square meters in total. Without windows. Apparently all rooms will have these sunlight, because there is nothing more Californian than finding an unnecessarily high-tech solution to an ethical problem. Munger is only giving $ 200 million of the $ 1.5 billion this thing will cost, who… how? That’s what a new skyscraper in Manhattan is for these days, including the value of the package and air rights. And don’t dare blame union contractors because I’m pretty sure you can’t walk into a construction site in New York these days without a union card.

The UC Santa Barbara board of directors, put under pressure by a housing crisis that forced them to house students in hotel rooms, simply approved this thing and rushed it after the pandemic after a few years late. This led to the very public resignation of one of the consulting architects who tore the thing to shreds in a “leaked” letter, essentially calling it a sick experiment that will destroy the minds of the students. I can’t help but wonder if this was the plan from the start, a large-scale experiment on how humans deal with confined spaces without sunlight, but with some basic equipment. Is this a sign of something?

There is a counterpoint. Apparently, Munger’s dorms have become very popular and loved by many students with individualized bathrooms, bedrooms, and large common areas. If the semi-anonymous reviews are to be believed, of course. Some have also argued that no window is an acceptable compromise to having to sleep in bunk beds as an adult … with roommates doing what adults do:

But if there was a case to be made, the pandemic just stomped on it, as students in Munger buildings had to isolate themselves in their rooms for weeks. While being locked indoors might not make any difference in Michigan, no one decides to spend years of their life in Santa Barbara, of all places, to stay indoors. UCSB also forgot a very significant problem.

Ah that too. No, I’m referring to the fact that this thing only has two entrances. Did I mention Charles Munger is from Nebraska? Because clearly he was thinking of a flat, frozen wasteland when designing this instead of an earthquake area. Maybe they’ll add a few more exit doors to comply with codes. Although I’m not sure they noticed this thing is the proverbial cannon for a shooter.

In Chile, dormitories are hardly a thing. Students in other places rent rooms in residential apartments or stay with relatives, and the vast majority live at home, as our cities are compact. I ask my Pajiba colleagues about their experiences with the added benefit that so many of them teach or work for universities. Their conclusions: 1) If you thought the sleeping schedules in regular dorms were bad, 2) Architects seem to forget that they were students once and don’t show their work, ignoring basic facts about the weather in the place, 3) or they just stack them in towers with tiny windows, 4) Crowded dorms are also a thing in Atlanta, according to Claude, although they may not have more space available to build (even in downtown), 5) the stench inside this thing could be listed as a chemical weapon. Additionally, Kayleigh remembered the architect of Fountain and it gave me an idea to solve the UCSB dilemma: take out terrorist insurance for the building, make major changes to the plans, piss off Munger to blow it up, collect the money insurance and build something better.

Or they could just hire one of the many unused cruise ships. They have the facilities for this and each room would have real windows.

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Sources of images (in order of publication): UC Santa Barbara, Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderberg Strategic Asset Management Office


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