Yes, build the UC Santa Barbara windowless dorm in my backyard

If you lived here you would now be home, waiting for the bathroom to open.
Photo: UC Santa Barbara

Being really rich is great, and not enough really rich people are doing crazy things like creating a park on an island or leaving their money to dogs or funding college dorms as long as they conceive them.

Today many people were horrified to learn of the hobbies of Charles Munger, a man rich in both ambition and money. The University of California, Santa Barbara accepted a gift of $ 200 million from him in exchange for permission to design Munger Hall, which is home to thousands of students, resulting in a design of dormitory so loathsome to the poor and non-visionary that an architect from the school’s design review committee resigned and the whole Internet lost its lunch.

It took a year and a half for Munger – who is worth over $ 2 billion, due to decades spent as Warren Buffett’s right-hand man – to come up with this setup, he said. The secret is that the dorm has compact, windowless rooms. Esteemed architect Paul Goldberger describes the design as “a grotesque and sick joke – a prison disguised as a dormitory.” Also, apparently there is a shared toilet for eight rooms? Ouch.

Not to be someone who Actuallys Paul Goldberger, but prisons, as high surveillance territories, tend to open onto long corridors and also have windows. Take a look at Sing Sing or other classic American penitentiaries, for example. Rather, Munger describes his inspiration as nautical – “the architecture of ships on land”. He even designed portholes for the bedrooms, he said. The Wall Street Journal in 2019, except that it’s just… lights.

This means there is almost no way it will meet the fire code. This means that it is entirely possible and exciting that along the way, our hero recreates that essential element of New York architecture, the “air shaft”.

A typical floor plan (!).
Photo: UC Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Independent has been riding this Munger story for ages, having dubbed Project Dormzilla in part because of its absolutely stupid and outrageous $ 1.5 billion price tag, goading the school’s communications team as they desperately struggle to sell the dormitory design to the public. The UCSB – a huge school with an enrollment of 25,000 students – needs to build more housing, even if it builds more teaching facilities. Santa Barbara is experiencing a severe housing shortage, which the school is contributing to by failing to create suitable housing to keep up with the growth of its staff and student population.

Dormzilla was weird, everyone thought, even back in the days of the university’s capture by donors, until they found out the Newspaper had already done all the homework on Buffett’s boyfriend. The non-architect’s other smaller work includes a graduate residency at the University of Michigan, which has also largely avoided windows. His plan also groups people into small settlements – but in this case, each bedroom has its own bathroom. So really, it’s more of a hospital than a prison. It’s also extremely ugly, and every aesthetic decision made there, from shower heads to countertops to paint, is disgusting. The Munger Graduate Residence at Stanford is also relatively luxurious – each apartment has a bathroom “for each student”.

Since we all know what this unbuilt UCSB dormitory will look like, together we can pray that the HVAC is absolutely top notch and someone has them put in a bunch of extra bathrooms and maybe windows so that you can get out during a fire. It does – and maybe hire someone who has a taste for color palettes and lighting, etc. – it turns out… Dormzilla is awesome.

It’s time not only to build this dormitory but to build this dormitory almost everywhere, from the wicked streets of hate to the housing of San Francisco in downtown Los Angeles to the silly suburbs of Westchester. Hit the coin, build the beehive, save the future.

1. The proposal has no parking – none, zero, no housing for cars. But it has parking for thousands of bikes. This dorm already surpasses 98 percent of all US housing. I will live in this dormitory.

2. Single occupancy sleeping rooms provide privacy and security not found on many college campuses. UCSB has many triple rooms; one of their undergraduate accommodation standards provides for two double bedrooms sharing a bathroom. Sharing rooms with strangers is hilarious sometimes, but most of the time it’s gross and bad. What are we, Europe?

3. The project has huge social, educational and recreational spaces, as it steals images of private spaces that go unused all day.

4. Dormzilla devalues ​​empty spaces and disposable spaces in general. “All the classrooms and everything is totally vacant except when the classes are there, which is extremely stupid,” Munger said of his thinking and why he makes larger spaces modular and reusable.

5. Build housing. Like, basically that’s it. There are a million reasons why people won’t create more apartments. “These windows are actually just plexiglass with full spectrum light behind” is just another excuse not to build housing. You millennials want to buy condos with your avocado toast money? We’re going to have to build them.

6. Architecture may be an art and a science – perhaps also primarily a zoning and regulatory management practice – but, as we have seen in the history of the past 40 years, architects do not not build more and more healthy housing. We should grasp the architecture of architects. More hobbyists should design homes if they can get them built! “Something like laying out a bunch of shapes on a piece of land, it’s not rocket science,” Munger told the WSJ Not long ago. This is all very true. But at least architects are required to design their work in a way that recognizes that everyone is pooping.

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