Billionaire wants to build windowless college dorm that is basically a ‘prison’

Students of similar building and architecture critic call plans ‘a jail masquerading as a dormitory’

Gino Spocchia
Friday 29 October 2021 20:31 BST
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An architect has reportedly resigned from a billionaire-backed student halls project because its rooms are windowless, and are “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being”.

Charles Munger, the wealthy donor-turned “amateur architect”, is reportedly behind the proposed development of Munger Hall, which will house students from The University of California in Santa Barbara.

If built, the 11-story, 1.68-million-square-foot structure would be home to almost 4,500 students – 94 per cent of whom would not have windows in their dorms, which are singles.

Dennis McFadden, a consultant architect resigned for UCSB, resigned on 25 October because of his opposition to the proposals for Munger Hall, which were labelled a “psychological experiment”, according to the Santa Barbara Independent,

“The building is a social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the university serves,” said Mr McFadden, an architect of 15 years.

He added that the university had not considered well established research into having access to windows for human wellbeing, and that it was wrong to ignore the coastal setting of UCSB’s campus.

Munger Hall, the architect alleged, would also “qualify as the eighth densest neighborhood on the planet, falling just short of Dhaka, Bangladesh”.

Students at a similar student dormitory building at the University of Michigan – and also reportedly financed by Mr Munger – are not favourable, and have criticised the dorms, as Vice News reported.

“Good luck surviving seasonal depression or maintaining your slowly failing eyesight, especially during a pandemic”, a student wrote of Munger Graduate Residences on apartment website Very Apt.

“Staying in an apartment with no windows and no access to other facilities within the building isn’t worth it,” reads another review of the University of Michigan building.

“Well, hopefully you won’t live through a pandemic in Munger so this might not apply to you.”

On Twitter, an architecture critic wrote of the Munger Hall plans: “If this report is true, this design is a grotesque, sick joke – a jail masquerading as a dormitory. No, design isn’t up to billionaire donors.”

“How far UCSB has fallen since the days when it had architects like Charles Moore.”

Mr Munger reportedly asked the University of California to adopt his windowless plans in return for $200m in funding, in a similar fashion to the University of Michigan’s building, The Santa Barbara Independent reported.

Mr Munger has also been dubbed a “right hand man” of billionaire Warren Buffett.

The Independent has approached the University of California for comment.

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