UCSB Should Reject The Proposed 'Munger Residence Hall'

UCSB Should Reject The Proposed 'Munger Residence Hall'

October 29, 2021
Petition to
Chancellor, University of California Santa Barbara, Henry T. Yang
Signatures: 14,632Next Goal: 15,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by Tommy Young

The University of California at Santa Barbara is moving forward with a proposed construction for a new residence hall, designed by Charles Munger, a 97-year-old billionaire turned amateur architect, who is contributing $200 million to the project on the condition that his design be followed exactly. The proposed building is an architectural nightmare, entirely out of touch with Isla Vista and the needs of students, and the administration is moving forwards with the project, ignoring all criticism. 

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, the new hall will be "an 11-story, 1.68-million-square-foot structure that would house up to 4,500 students, 94 percent of whom would not have windows in their small, single-occupancy bedrooms,". Furthermore, "[the new residence hall] would qualify as the eighth densest neighborhood on the planet, falling just short of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It would be able to house Princeton University’s entire undergraduate population, or all five Claremont Colleges,". The building would stand 159 feet tall - for comparison, Storke Tower is 175 feet tall.

Anyone who has attended a university and lived in on campus housing knows that cold, flu, and now coronavirus spread like wildfire in confined, dense spaces. Social distancing would be virtually impossible, and students with coronavirus would be expected to isolate in tiny, windowless rooms. 

The building will also be designed with very little focus on its location. UCSB's fantastic location means that an 11-story building could have fantastic views, at least alleviating one of the many problems with the structure. However, the proposed hall will be mostly inwards-facing, including the 11th-story rooftop courtyard. 

According to a Q&A posted by UCSB on 11/4, the building will have 15 entrances and exits. For comparison, the currently largest, soon to be second-largest single dormitory in the world, Bancroft Hall on the US Naval Academy campus, has more than 25 entrances and exits for a population of 4,000 students. 

I am not an architecture major, but it does not take an architecture major to recognize the glaring problems with this structure, and the administration's refusal to recognize the criticism they have received from architects and, today (10/29), the national news, is very disappointing. 

Finally, there is a breadth of research on the mental health impacts of living in windowless spaces, or spaces with poor natural lighting. Munger has suggested that this solution be solved with screens, that are artificial windows, akin to those on cruise ships. Why this is necessary, when this building will be located on California's gorgeous coastline, is beyond me. 

Currently, UCSB has a housing crisis, and this must be addressed. However, warehousing students in one windowless superstructure designed by an amateur architect is not the solution. This petition was created to allow students, alumni, community members, and concerned citizens a platform to voice their opposition to this building. 

Resources and Further Reading: 

A petition started by UCSB Architecture faculty! https://www.change.org/p/ucsb-chancellor-henry-yang-halt-the-construction-of-munger-hall-at-ucsb

The Santa Barbara Independent article, if anyone is interested in reading the full text: https://www.independent.com/2021/10/28/architect-resigns-in-protest-over-ucsb-mega-dorm/

An article from Slate on the subject, written by a UCSB graduate student: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/11/ucsb-munger-hall-windowless-dorm-privatization-public-space.html

An Op-ed by the architect who resigned in protest, written in the LA Times (paywalled, disable your adblocker): https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-11-01/ucsb-megadorm-santa-barbara-charles-munger-design 

A writeup on the San Joaquin Villages, a UCSB housing project featured in architectural magazines: https://www.archdaily.com/917952/san-joaquin-villages-at-the-university-of-california-som-plus-loha-plus-kda-plus-kierantimberlake

An op-ed from the Independent on Brutalism, Le Corbusier, and the inspiration for Munger Hall: https://www.independent.com/2021/11/04/student-housing-and-the-brutalist-style/

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Signatures: 14,632Next Goal: 15,000
Support now

Decision Makers

  • Henry T. YangChancellor, University of California Santa Barbara,