After the billionaire designed the student room, the architect resigned in protest

“Completely stunning” Thus, the University of California, Santa Barbara described plans for Munger Hall, a high-rise residence for more than 4,500 students designed by Charles T. Munger, a billionaire and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

But Dennis McFadden, an architect who served as a consultant on the university’s design review committee, disagreed. On October 24, in a scathing letter to committee chairs, he announced his resignation because of the university’s decision to approve a design he compared to a “social and psychological experiment.”

He said he was “disturbed” by the design, which would cram students into a 1.7-million-square-foot 11-story building and the vast majority of them would live in small, windowless rooms “completely dependent on artificial light and mechanical ventilation.”

“In almost fifteen years of serving as a consultant architect in DR Congo, no project has been submitted to the committee that is larger, more transformative, and potentially more destructive to a campus than a space like Munger Hall,” he wrote in a letter. “The basic concept of Munger Hall as a student living space is unacceptable from my perspective as an architect, parent and human being.”

Mr McFadden resigned after a committee meeting on 5 October on the planning adopted by the university, as he is facing such a severe housing shortage. that they had to accommodate students in hotels. On its website, the university wrote that Munger Hall will create “better and more affordable” apartments “with flourishing and elegance”.

In a statement, Andrea Estrada, a university spokeswoman, said the design and project were moving forward “as planned”.

Estrada said the plan was a collaboration between the university, Mr. Munger and the architects at VTBS Architects, and to reduce the number of students who would have to live off-campus.

She said the project is in line with how the university generally develops its housing projects, “with the goal of providing affordable campus housing that reduces energy consumption.”

Ms Estrada did not address the specific concerns of Mr McFadden.

“We are grateful for Mr McFadden’s contributions and insights during his tenure as an advisory consultant,” she said.

In an interview, the 97-year-old Mr Munger turned away from criticism and said he saw nothing in it other than the typical chatter of architects.

“I’m not the least bit surprised that someone looked at him and said,‘ What the hell is going on here? ’,” He said Friday. “It’s going to work better here than any other practical alternative.”

Mr. Munger, who is not a certified architect, said he worked with licensed architects on the project.

The design is similar in the dormitories he helped design at the University of Michigan, where the units are also windowless and students have their own rooms.

Unlike these residences, he said, dormitories in Santa Barbara would have “virtual windows”; students would have a button with which to manipulate how much artificial light they should let into their rooms to mimic day or evening.

Artificial windows that rely on LED lights to mimic natural light They are used indoors, small apartments and basements.

“If you want it romantic and darkened, you can make it romantic and darkened,” Mr. Munger said. “When in your life could you change the sun? You can in this bedroom. “

He added, “It’s a pretty happy place, these little bedrooms.”

He was inspired by the idea for virtual windows artificial windows in the cabins of Disney cruisers, he said. “Except mine are better,” Mr. Munger said.

Other parts of the building, mostly common areas such as the gym, multipurpose room and study lounge, would have the windows facing outwards.

Mr. McFadden said in his letter that indoor environments improve a person’s physical and mental well-being by accessing natural light and nature.

“Munger Hall ignores this evidence and seems to take the view that it doesn’t matter,” he said. The “unparalleled” density and scale of the project is not in line with the character of the campus overlooking the Pacific coast, Mr McFadden wrote.

Mr. McFadden, Director of Design at LEO A DALY, a design company, declined to comment. He confirmed that he had written a letter announcing his resignation, but said it had leaked to the public and was not intended for publication.

Architectural critics and students seem to agree with Mr. McFadden.

One student said he opposed the project because of its height and lack of windows, according to a transcript of public comments adopted at the July meeting on the proposal.

“Young people don’t always smell good,” he wrote. “Fresh air is INCREDIBLY important to students.”

Another student compared bedrooms to units in solitary confinement.

“You require students to get depressed and self-harm,” the student wrote. “Think hard about the whole plan again.”

Paul Goldberger, an architectural critic for The New Yorker, said the concept showed “how far UCSB has fallen since the days when it had architects like Charles Moore. ”

“This design is a grotesque, sick joke – a prison disguised as a bedroom,” he said on Twitter, link to the story by The Santa Barbara Independent about design. “No, design doesn’t depend on billionaire donors.”

Munger Hall is expected to cost more than $ 1 billion and will be partially funded by Mr. Munger. The opening is expected in 2025.

Mr McFadden said in his letter that after the October 5 meeting, it became clear to him that the universities were not interested in the committee’s contributions.

“The design was described as 100% complete, no approval was requested, no vote was taken and no further submissions are envisaged or required,” he said.

Mr Munger, a longtime friend and business partner of Warren Buffett, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said he has consulted with several licensed architects and other professionals.

Mr McFadden “may not have been consulted, but he has consulted many other people,” Mr Munger said. “It’s not something I would make a housing in a room alone.”

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