'Dormzilla': Blowback Continues Over Billionaire's Design of Mega-Dorm With Windowless Rooms

  • November 18, 2021 11:35

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A rendering of Munger Hall, which would house more than 4,500 undergraduates at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
UCSB Office of Strategic Asset Management
Rendering of single occupancy bedroom with "virtual window" in Munger Hall.

For $200 million, the University of California, Santa Barbara, has greenlighted one billionaire's plan to house thousands of students in windowless rooms within the world's largest dormitory---to considerable backlash on social media, national media and student-led petitions.

Ninety-seven-year-old Charles Munger, the L.A.-based vice-chairman of Warren Buffet's holding company, has stipulated that his monetary gift to housing-strapped UCSB comes only with the use of his own architectural design featuring 10-by-7 foot single dorm rooms with no windows, other than artificially-lit "virtual windows." Situated on the outskirts of the California coastal campus, the controversial project could cost a total of $1.5 billion.

Proposed floorplan

Munger, an amateur architect, theorizes that natural light-filled communal spaces will drive students out of their closet-like bedrooms deep inside the nearly two-million-square-foot structure. At eleven stories tall, the massive dorm will house around forty-five hundred students.

Dormzilla, as the Santa Barbara Independent dubbed the project, drove consulting architect Dennis McFadden to resign from UCSB’s design-review committee, decrying Munger's building as a “social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the university serves.” 

He pointed out in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that the dorm would qualify “as the eighth densest neighborhood in the world, falling just short of a portion of Dhaka, Bangladesh.” 

In a similar but much smaller project, Munger donated a hundred and ten million dollars to the University of Michigan, his alma mater, to build the Munger Graduate Residences, which opened in 2015. One student described it to the New Yorker as a place of poor ventilation and even poorer sleep. “Lots of talk of sunlamps and melatonin,” he said.

UCSB published a Munger Hall Q&A piece on Nov. 4, noting that while windowless, viewless, metaverse-optimized bedrooms "may not be right for everyone," many students will seek "the experience of communal and co-living, but also want the privacy of a single bedroom" on the campus, which has chronically lacked student housing. On-site amenities will include "a market, bakery, fitness center, recreation room, study space, music instruction rooms, and much more."

Read more at New Yorker

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