The very rich are different from you and me.
October 29, 2021 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Architect Resigns in Protest over UCSB Mega-Dorm. A consulting architect on UCSB’s Design Review Committee has quit his post in protest over the university’s proposed Munger Hall project, calling the massive, mostly-windowless dormitory plan “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being.” 97-year-old billionaire and amateur architect Charles Munger donated $200 million toward the project - 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 - with the condition that his blueprints be followed exactly.
posted by Lyme Drop (167 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Perfect for reading annual reports tho.

(there are like 3 people who will read that joke and get it)
posted by JPD at 11:45 AM on October 29, 2021 [16 favorites]


Are bedrooms without windows even legal?

I mean, I would have 100% preferred a single room with no window to my first year roommate having sex with her boyfriend while I was in the room, but I'm not sure fire code would allow for that.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:48 AM on October 29, 2021 [15 favorites]


Note that the projected final cost of the building is $1.5 billion. As paying for one's astoundingly poorly planned vanity projects go, Munger is footing something like twelve percent of the projected bill. Good deal if you can get it, I guess.
posted by sciatrix at 11:49 AM on October 29, 2021 [30 favorites]


I would be surprised if this blueprint wasn't proposing a building that was against the law. Many places require windows in bedrooms as a means of egress in case of emergency.

I don't inherently hate the idea but it would really not be such a challenge to add space between rooms so windows (and a courtyard!) could be put in. An extra benefit: fewer wall-sharing neighbors to overhear you having sex!
posted by LSK at 11:50 AM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


So it only had two exits for 4,500 people. And it's not like people could hop out of windows. In what universe is that up to code? Isn't this a massive fire hazard?

(As well as a truly perfect way to make sure things like COVID circulate for maximum impact).

Can they even legally build this?
posted by emjaybee at 11:51 AM on October 29, 2021 [44 favorites]


Oh sure, let's give students MORE winter depression and loneliness.

I have lived in student housing with a room similar size. I didn't not hate it. I loved it. Because I could see the sunrise from my bed. A space that small really lights up on direct sunlight.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 11:51 AM on October 29, 2021 [22 favorites]


Munger Hall, in comparison, is a single block housing 4,500 students with two entrances

I like bleak cyberpunk dystopias as much as the next guy, but that, combined with windowless rooms... It's got to be a fire hazard, right? Add in college students, who are not known for maintaining their spaces with fire safety in mind, and...
posted by surlyben at 11:53 AM on October 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


Munger's done this elsewhere, but not at this scale of inhumanity: see Stanford and UMich. The UMich dorm seems somewhat popular, but that may be because it's relatively new and nicely built. Some more interesting comments about the UMich experience here (CW: Hacker News).

This dorm seems totally out of place for UCSB. But then compare it to Hong Kong microapartments. At least the student rooms don't need cooking facilities.
posted by Nelson at 11:53 AM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


Ironic that they're trying this at UCSB. Why not someplace like South Dakota where at least the students will have experience with spending long periods of time in dark, windowless rooms?

And, as usual, Monty Python got there first.
posted by srt19170 at 11:55 AM on October 29, 2021 [18 favorites]


This is insane and would be illegal where I am. But I still resent and fear this type of projects because they may inspire other places to loosen their regulation.
posted by mumimor at 11:56 AM on October 29, 2021 [16 favorites]


That is not enough toilets for an 8 person house unit
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 11:56 AM on October 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


Are you really a philanthropist if your donation is tied to the suffering of others to support your delusions of grandeur? Or are you just a crazy old rich man who has never been told "no"?
posted by meowzilla at 12:09 PM on October 29, 2021 [86 favorites]


The pod bedrooms aren't really the problem, I lived in one about that big one year at college and it was preferable to sharing a larger room. The lack of window is a big downgrade, but I could see it as an acceptable compromise if the rest of the place was built for human beings to live in. But look at the suite common area, the only thing you can do is sit at a table. There's no place to slouch around on couches or chairs with your suitemates, watching tv, playing video games, just hanging out. Even worse, there's no way to fix it later -- you couldn't put anything in that weird narrow space without blocking bedroom doors. And still no light! Plus the bathrooms are badly configured, with two people taking morning showers meaning everyone else is blocked off from the sinks and toilets. There's a reason most dorm suites have communal bathroom areas.

Even the "great room" for the housing sections is configured more like a prison cafeteria than a place to hang out. Page 10 here. And sure, the first floor and the roof terrace are fancy and nice, but you'll be competing with *4500* other students for the nice bits.
posted by tavella at 12:09 PM on October 29, 2021 [26 favorites]


Because if you have a lot of money the whole damn world rolls over and asks you to rub its belly god it all sucks right now
posted by JHarris at 12:09 PM on October 29, 2021 [18 favorites]


Munger maintains the small living quarters would coax residents out of their rooms and into larger common areas, where they could interact and collaborate.

Or the common areas will be taken over by the one or two biggest assholes in the eight-person "house".
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:10 PM on October 29, 2021 [67 favorites]


Regardless of the qualities of the design, this is another example of the trouble with depending on wealthy donors for basic needs. When you've got people imposing their own grandiose visions over your needs, you all too often wind up with actual needs unmet and white elephants you didn't need. (Did Munger also donate anything towards the ongoing maintenance of this thing?)
posted by trig at 12:10 PM on October 29, 2021 [26 favorites]


God, and just imagine if there were an electricity outage. Surely there will be backup generators, but this is earthquake territory. A total failure of utility could make this a disaster for residents that it's hard to imagine the scale of.
posted by knotty knots at 12:13 PM on October 29, 2021 [12 favorites]


Good on Dennis McFadden for resigning. This is an abomination.
I suspect that a building like this may be possible within code and without being a fire hazard. That in no way makes it okay.
This is by definition an experimental living arrangement that goes against everything we have learned in the past 30 years. So, I find it ironic that the one example given is of bathroom sizes from 30 years ago - an anecdote I find suspicious at the least as often early designs shorthand some details and it isn't uncommon for bathroom sizes to be refined as a design is finalized regardless of how famous the project donors happen to be.
UCSB should absolutely step back and reconsider this building. It isn't worth spending 1.3 billion dollars to house a $200 million white elephant.
posted by meinvt at 12:14 PM on October 29, 2021 [17 favorites]


Two of the bedroom doors come out straight into the kitchen, like behind the counter. Not only does it make it difficult (for eight people!) to cook, it'll make it difficult to keep smells and noise out of those two bedrooms.

It's brutalism without the concrete!
posted by furtive at 12:15 PM on October 29, 2021 [26 favorites]


Also - obligatory link to Kowloon Walled City.
posted by meinvt at 12:22 PM on October 29, 2021 [11 favorites]


Weird. When you make a building by removing the central cube from each face, then iteratively repeat that process, I'd think you'd end up with a lot of windows.
posted by zamboni at 12:23 PM on October 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


Even the "great room" for the housing sections is configured more like a prison cafeteria than a place to hang out.

The whole thing looks very prison-like. I mean, he could have just substituted a gruel dispenser for the kitchenette, called it “I Hate You Young Whippersnappers Hall” and called it a day.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:23 PM on October 29, 2021 [24 favorites]


This amateur architect and professional rich person clearly has strong ideas about how students should spend their time (versus how he imagines they currently spend their time) and is likely getting sheer joy out of the vision of forcing 4000 people to live their lives the way he thinks they should.

My favorite detail on the drawing in tavella's link is that it appears that the surfboard storage room on the first floor does in fact have windows. Because obviously you need windows for your surfboard storage room.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:23 PM on October 29, 2021 [42 favorites]


Are you really a philanthropist if your donation is tied to the suffering of others to support your delusions of grandeur? Or are you just a crazy old rich man who has never been told "no"?

At most universities this is called the Office of Development.

Aside from everything else, I'm just stunned by plans to build a billion dollar dorm of any kind when, IME, universities have spent the last 25 years farming out student housing to equally poorly designed privately-operated apartment complexes.
posted by a Rrose by any other name at 12:30 PM on October 29, 2021 [12 favorites]


When those weird mechanisms on the blueprints that no one understands spring to life on the night after the students move in and the building becomes a giant ritual sacrifice machine and grant the architect eternal life, then his grand vision will finally be understood.

That or it's just another example of a rich donor thinking they know better than everyone else and tying their gift to some ridiculous mandate that helps no one, but helps the donor think they are giving back, like the institutional version of wearing that ugly Christmas sweater when Grandma visits.
posted by subocoyne at 12:32 PM on October 29, 2021 [17 favorites]


I once lived in a room with a similar design, although it was not for eight people -- our bathroom was, though. Long story short, everyone is going to know your business. If you are coming in or out from the bedroom, the people sitting around the common room will know your business, and vice versa. They will know your moods, and they will know your smells. And they will especially know your bathroom problems, and, again, all associated smells. At least I had a window to lean out and sigh back then.

This amateur architect and professional rich person clearly has strong ideas about how students should spend their time (versus how he imagines they currently spend their time)

You know how some cafes have a sign that says, "We don't have wifi -- pretend it's 1995: talk to each other"? This is that, but a building. People need places to gather, and they need places to be alone. This layout reminds me of the singles cruise ship "studios" that Norwegian is offering, although at least in those you get your own toilet and free drinks to drown out the noise of people right outside.

Aside from everything else, I'm just stunned by plans to build a billion dollar dorm ...

I read a tweet saying that the university was trying to accommodate an increase in students from China in particular, together with an existing deficit of housing.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:33 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


And the workhouses? Are they still in operation?
posted by Thorzdad at 12:34 PM on October 29, 2021 [37 favorites]


Is it even normal to have that many kitchens/kitchenettes in dorms? Aren't there dining commons?

My college dorm had a tiny kitchenette, a single stove and microwave, for the entire building (100+ people). It was irregularly used. Having a lot of stoves/refrigerators/faucets, tucked away from common spaces (not just eight people), makes it likely that someone who is living away from home for the first time is going to start a fire/flood, as well as increase the overhead of keeping the place clean.
posted by meowzilla at 12:34 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Munger's design looks like it came straight out of Ayn Rand's "The Peckerhead."
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:38 PM on October 29, 2021 [23 favorites]


I'm just stunned by plans to build a billion dollar dorm of any kind

I am as well, but I also think this is a reflection of our staffing and regulatory approach. A single mega-project only has to go through permits once and can be guided from the top by a relatively small team - likewise with the designers, selecting the builders, etc.

Far better for the outcome would likely be about ten projects to each house 450 students. However, this would require significantly more administrative staff on the university side to organize, less 'efficiency of scale' in professional service contracts, etc. In addition the permitting would not only increase ten-fold in quantity, but likely each project would still become contingent on the others as locals wanted to know all the details about everything before approving anything - a series of dominoes where none is allowed to be the first to fall.

The flip side is that with that many projects you could have a diversity of inputs and viewpoints which are clearly missing here. They could educate and inform each other over time. You could even more easily extend contracts to historically disadvantaged groups as you wouldn't be so reliant on only dealing with the biggest and most established players.
posted by meinvt at 12:38 PM on October 29, 2021 [9 favorites]


this is another example of the trouble with depending on wealthy donors for basic needs. When you've got people imposing their own grandiose visions over your needs, you all too often wind up with actual needs unmet and white elephants you didn't need.

It happens at many levels. If you challenge a lot of Christians that their objections to government social programs, pointing out Christ would want to help the poor, they would respond that they give to charity; they don’t want to be forced to give via the government. What seems to be the case, in practice, is they want to control how their money is spent and who it goes to. So, they can make sure it goes to a Christian charity that may have strings to the benefit.

As an added bonus, they can show off to the other folks in their church.

It’s not about giving; it’s about control.
posted by MrGuilt at 12:40 PM on October 29, 2021 [27 favorites]


At most universities this is called the Office of Development.

No, these days it's called the Office of Institutional Advancement. "Development" implies some kind of growth and positive change. "Advancement" is what armies do.

(yes, I work in an IA office, why do you ask?)
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:42 PM on October 29, 2021 [17 favorites]


Houses just enough indebted students for about 10 seasons of Squid Games. Or one mega game I suppose.

Red light.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:42 PM on October 29, 2021 [6 favorites]


the building becomes a giant ritual sacrifice machine and grant the architect eternal life

The structure of this roof cap is exactly like the kind of telemetry tracker that NASA uses to identify dead pulsars in deep space. Cold-riveted girders with cores of pure selenium. The whole building is a huge, superconductive antenna that was designed and built expressly for the purpose of pulling in and concentrating spiritual turbulence. The architect's name was Ivo Shandor. I found it in Tobin's Spirit Guide. He was also a doctor. Performed a lot of unnecessary surgery. And then, in 1920, he started a secret society...
posted by Servo5678 at 12:43 PM on October 29, 2021 [46 favorites]


$1.5 billion/4,500 = $333,333. Is that the going rate for building a dorm room, plus amenities?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:45 PM on October 29, 2021 [13 favorites]


This is a building designed by someone who has never actually met humans.
posted by mcduff at 12:46 PM on October 29, 2021 [14 favorites]


This was clearly designed before the pandemic, right? Because no windows + people being crammed into very small rooms + being designed to "socialize with others" doesn't work in pandemic.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:50 PM on October 29, 2021 [18 favorites]


Seriously I would not want to be crammed into a tiny dorm room with no escape during pandemic.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:51 PM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


Apparently, windowless rooms are for Munger what little brass do-dads were for Edward Durrell Stone. A 2019 story reports that
Windowless bedrooms have actually become a signature characteristic for Munger, the architect. In 2013, he designed a graduate dormitory for his alma mater, the University of Michigan, that had 600 single bedrooms—mostly windowless. The original architect’s plan had space for only 300 students ...

His current architecture project for UC Santa Barbara will still need to pass a number of approvals, but the philanthropist is confident that, once completed, “it will be widely regarded as the best in the world.”
posted by a Rrose by any other name at 12:53 PM on October 29, 2021 [4 favorites]


Can someone with better search and calculation skills than I, try a cost comparison?
Bancroft Hall, at the US Naval Academy, houses 4000 'students'. (USNA is effectively a university, and Bancroft is the sole dormitory.) So 500 fewer persons, and all under 'you're in the Navy now' conditions.
Did that cost a billion dollars, in today-money?
posted by bartleby at 12:58 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


4500 people with two entrances is a recipe for a crowd crush disaster the first time something goes wrong and people want to get out en masse. Just make those doors open inwards and round it all off.
posted by Anonymous at 1:00 PM on October 29, 2021


This redlines my bullshit detector in the same way that urban legends about getting the plans for a dorm and a prison mixed up do, but all the design info is pretty much there in the presentation packet for UCSB, and yeah, no windows. There are ten exit stairways though, and each "gallery" of dorms has three exits, but still. I have to wonder if they're planning on taking his money and then hoping he dies before they start construction.

The only way I can think of this being possible, codewise, is that the code is administered by the state (of California). Technically, UCSB is also the State of California.
posted by LionIndex at 1:03 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Is it even normal to have that many kitchens/kitchenettes in dorms? Aren't there dining commons?


I don't know about that - in my first-year dorm, we had one kitchen/lounge per floor of ~80 people, although there were only ovens on 2 of the 7 floors. All students in that dorm were required to have large meal plans. The kitchens were used irregularly, but sometimes you just want to have your own favorite meal or bake a friend a birthday cake. The kitchen was also the only place we could use a microwave; we weren't allowed to have them in the rooms. They were pretty strict about fire safety - absolutely no candles, even if they've never been in lit, etc., but ultimately most adults can and should be trusted to use a stove. Or at least they've gotta learn sometime.

After my first year, all my dorms were apartment-style, with regular apartment kitchens. Most apartments had about 6 students, depending on the floor plan. Some were converted apartments and others were purpose-built as dorms. Most students in those apartments chose to cook rather than going to the rather expensive dining hall. You didn't have to live in an apartment-style dorm - there were others - but apartments were by far the most desirable and popular. Even though it meant you had to clean your own bathroom.
posted by mosst at 1:04 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


4500 people with two entrances is a recipe for a crowd crush disaster the first time something goes wrong and people want to get out en masse.

First floor has something like 40 exits - the ten stairways and then at least one door out of every room on the floor. The exits aren't the problem.
posted by LionIndex at 1:05 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


(there are like 3 people who will read that joke and get it)
posted by JPD at 11:45 AM on October 29 [4 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


favorited only so I could be the fourth.
posted by philip-random at 1:06 PM on October 29, 2021


This redlines my bullshit detector in the same way that urban legends about getting the plans for a dorm and a prison mixed up do ...

On both the campuses on which I've lived, people said that certain dorms built in the late '60s and '70s were constructed to be riot-proof in case of student unrest, and yet I did not realize it was an urban legend until I was long gone.

It would be pretty hard to get a good riot going in this one, though; it's self-kettling. And although it really needs fire code compliance, it doesn't seem like a big firetrap, if only because there isn't enough fresh air to really get one going, and probably not enough natural wood in the construction.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:10 PM on October 29, 2021 [4 favorites]


With many building projects like this the vast bulk of the cost is in buying the land. They could take the money and build this thing, fulfilling the legacy, and then immediately demolish it and build something sensible.
posted by Lanark at 1:14 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Two of the bedroom doors come out straight into the kitchen, like behind the counter. Not only does it make it difficult (for eight people!) to cook, it'll make it difficult to keep smells and noise out of those two bedrooms.

Dwarf Fortress: The College Years
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 1:16 PM on October 29, 2021 [21 favorites]


Using wood for anything other than finish work in a building this size would be another code violation to add to the list.

It's likely that UCSB already owns the land and has for decades.
posted by LionIndex at 1:19 PM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


There's nothing inherently wrong with fairly cramped college accommodation with shared facilities, but this proposal sounds like a grand vision that doesn't take the needs of the people who actually have to live there into consideration. During my first years at university I lived in college accommodation sited in two tall apartment blocks. Each floor was arranged with shared laundry, toilets, showers and common room/kitchenette shared by around 20 single-student rooms. There were large shared kitchens elsewhere that you had to trek to, but had enough space and appliances for large scale catering, if you were so included. Access to each floor was through a pair of lifts and two sets of stairs. Occasionally the shared areas would become somewhat gross -- in fairly predictable ways from having a bunch of 18-20 year olds who were usually living away from home for the first time. Architecturally the place tended to brutalism. But it was all more or less workable, and a reasonable place to live while studying. All the individual rooms and common rooms had windows to the outside for light and air.

Arguably, at one end of the building design spectrum there's Christopher Alexander, who advocates for letting the people who are going to actually inhabit the space as a home or workplace take part in the design and construction and adjustment or ongoing modification of the space. Alexander might also suggest light on two sides of every room.

At another end of the spectrum, which Munger seems to be contending for, there's the large-scale centrally planned tragedies James C. Scott writes about in the book Seeing Like a State:
Centrally managed social plans misfire, Scott argues, when they impose schematic visions that do violence to complex interdependencies that are not—and cannot—be fully understood. Further, the success of designs for social organization depends upon the recognition that local, practical knowledge is as important as formal, epistemic knowledge. The author builds a persuasive case against “development theory” and imperialistic state planning that disregards the values, desires, and objections of its subjects. He identifies and discusses four conditions common to all planning disasters: administrative ordering of nature and society by the state; a “high-modernist ideology” that places confidence in the ability of science to improve every aspect of human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large- scale interventions; and a prostrate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.
posted by are-coral-made at 1:23 PM on October 29, 2021 [12 favorites]


The kitchens seem designed for maximum interference with the work triangle: there's a giant table smack in the middle of the room getting in the way of the multiple stoves-in-a-row, the wall of fridges-in-a-row, and the wall of sinks-in-a-row. Does this guy expect the students to organize themselves like a commercial kitchen at mealtime? It's a plan for maximum elbow banging.

On the upside, trying to figure out who this guy is did lead me to a fawning page full of his "wit and wisdom". It's... a thing.
posted by traveler_ at 1:31 PM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


Is it even normal to have that many kitchens/kitchenettes in dorms? Aren't there dining commons?

Saves money if the students reheat their own nutriloaf.
posted by bonehead at 1:31 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Interesting how the letters making up "dorm" and "doom" are so close together. r and o are almost neighbors.
posted by doctornemo at 1:32 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


I hate on architects like anyone else who has experienced the modern built environment (aside from a few stand outs among the folks I used to work with), but has this addled old man been in a college dorm in the last twenty years?

Can you imagine move-in weekend? All that goddamn cardboard! Or the morning of Commencement, when everyone is still half-drunk and trying to move out while also hiding evidence of their final debauchery from their parents?

And where will the five hundred Amazon lockers go? What about the weed stank, with no windows? And there's not going to be enough electrical outlets by like two powers of ten: "Chargers, chargers everywhere! And small appliances, too!"

FIE.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:34 PM on October 29, 2021 [8 favorites]


Smaller bedrooms clustered around a shared common room is an old college residential design, but the way it works best is if a handful of suites share a landing with a bathroom on each floor of an entryway. That way the bathrooms are outside the immediate living space rather than immediately adjoining it. (The students, of course, eat in the dining hall/commons.) Everybody gets windows that way...Hard to believe we're going backwards in terms of decent human livability from the 1930s.

Also, the fuck I'm giving a donor the ability to dictate the plans, which inevitably have HUGE implications for future maintenance and renovation costs, with a piddling 12% donation. John Paulson gave $400m to Harvard for naming rights on the engineering school.
posted by praemunire at 1:35 PM on October 29, 2021 [11 favorites]


What about the weed stank, with no windows?

OMG it's gonna smell like the Death Star trash compactor in there.
posted by praemunire at 1:36 PM on October 29, 2021 [21 favorites]


Weed stank would be a blessing to cover up the mildew TBH. I could smell those blueprints already.
posted by traveler_ at 1:39 PM on October 29, 2021 [15 favorites]


Sounds like a cruise ship in hell.
posted by waving at 1:40 PM on October 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


$1.5 billion/4,500 = $333,333
There has got to be an extra zero mixed in there somewhere, right? A third of a million dollars per pod suggests some major gifting somewhere along the line.
posted by St. Oops at 1:42 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


"Munger maintains the small living quarters would coax residents out of their rooms and into larger common areas, where they could interact and collaborate."

This is true. Whenever I've been on a cruise, everyone with an inside, windowless cabin would be in the public areas all day, because their own space was so depressing.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


Jeezus. I'm getting claustrophobia just looking at that design presentation.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:57 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


This is Kowloon Walled City re-imagined by a crazy billionaire.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:59 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


As someone who has seen the nightmare that is UCSB's faculty housing--which, thanks to California's requirement that all projects must be given to the lowest bidder, was designed by a company with no previous experience in domestic architecture--I am...not actually shocked that they might go along with this.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:03 PM on October 29, 2021 [6 favorites]


The plans feel a lot like the dystopian dorm nightmare in Neal Stephenson's The Big U, or maybe J. G. Ballard's High-Rise. Massive self contained societies seem to rather quickly evolve social constructs well outside the original design parameters.

I know it was a joke years ago about UCSB students blowing off classes to surf, but it has a big room on the first floor listed as being for Surfboards on South side between Security and Laundry.
This is planned while simultaneously locating the building on the farthest point on campus from the shore.
posted by Badgermann at 2:07 PM on October 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


The grad school version of this, where everyone gets their own bathrooms and the shared living rooms and kitchens are only shared between two people/families (and have windows), doesn't sound that bad. If you don't like the person you share the common area with, that's exactly the same as a bad roommate you share a room with, except better bc you still HAVE your own bedroom. If you're only going back to your room to sleep, watch a movie, etc it's honestly OK to not have windows.

But I kind of hate spending time alone in my room anyway.
posted by subdee at 2:14 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


$1.5 billion/4,500 = $333,333
There has got to be an extra zero mixed in there somewhere, right?


I thought so too at first glance, but nope, it really is over $300k - close to the median cost of a single family home for one of those pods + 1/4500th of the common areas. That seems insane.

1.5 billion / 1.68 million square feet = $893 per square foot. This is just the first semi-reputable looking link I dug up, but it suggests $150-200/sq. ft. is typical for college dorms. Where's the other ~$1.2 billion? Does the full amount include a bunch of other projects not mentioned in the links?
posted by echo target at 2:52 PM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


The instant this catches fire or anything happens that requires evacuation a bunch of people are going to die, either trapped inside rooms they can't escape or crushed to death at the exits. This is a machine for murdering college students. It should be a crime to even propose this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:59 PM on October 29, 2021 [10 favorites]


College students are so vulnerable and so preyed on and mistreated and like absolutely no one cares.
posted by bleep at 3:02 PM on October 29, 2021 [9 favorites]


I know people involved in prison design, and while they aren't the most enlightened in many ways, they have at least a rudimentary understanding that everyone should have exposure to natural light.
posted by sepviva at 3:02 PM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


I'm of the understanding that residence halls are some of the few "new builds" on college and university campuses that don't necessarily require major capital campaigns or named donors. Over time they essentially pay for themselves via housing fees, yes? (Disclosure: I work in academia, but at a small private institution's grad school. It's likely my aforementioned understanding isn't applicable in this particular instance.)
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2021


I cannot imagine what this will do to mental health and coping/self-harming behaviors, all of which college students struggle with quite notoriously. There were multiple tragedies at my school: if I had a kid, I would ask them to attend another school and take on debt before I would let them take the risks that inhere to living like this. Everyone involved in moving this forward ought to be ashamed.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 3:12 PM on October 29, 2021 [16 favorites]


Centrally managed social plans misfire, Scott argues, when they impose schematic visions that do violence to complex interdependencies that are not—and cannot—be fully understood.

The Chinese Communist Party seems to be coping OK so far.
posted by acb at 3:45 PM on October 29, 2021


The other absolutely incomprehensible part of this is that when the next pandemic comes these kids will basically be sealed up alive in these tombs to swap germs until it burns down with everyone inside. And really only one person involved at all cares?
posted by bleep at 3:49 PM on October 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


One thing that was really interesting in the articles was the pressure (and lawsuits) on the university to create a LOT of housing to allay the housing crunch for non-UCSB-affiliated people in the area. That seems to be one of the things keeping university leaders focused on this plan. But if you don't actually make the housing appealing, students won't want to live there - unless you make it SO CHEAP that it's worth it. Though since it's clear the student body is already wealthy enough to drive up housing costs in the area, that might not even work.

I can't help but think about how absolutely pathetic Munger is. Anyone who's worked in philanthropy or with rich people knows those rich people who use their money to stroke their own ego (or get others to do it) but forcing institutions to pretend you're an actual architect is just on another level of cringe. Rich hobbyists are a problem in so many areas but this is the first hobbyist architect I've heard of.

The singles in my dorm freshman year were about the same size as this. I could have had one my sophomore year but chose to live with a roommate I didn't know super well because it just seemed so depressing. And that one had a window, plus was on a floor with an actual lounge, and multiple bathrooms!
posted by lunasol at 3:52 PM on October 29, 2021 [6 favorites]


If a spontaneous demonstration against President-for-life Tom Cotton (aka 'King Cotton') and his Enemy Alien Exclusion and Expulsion Edict was suddenly blowing up, how sweet would it be to be able to contain and neutralize 4500 potential enemies of the common good with a mere handful of highly trained Civil Militia Officers?
posted by jamjam at 4:13 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


But if you don't actually make the housing appealing, students won't want to live there

I don’t know if it’s the case at UCSB, but some schools require freshmen to live on campus.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:20 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


The instant this catches fire or anything happens that requires evacuation a bunch of people are going to die, either trapped inside rooms they can't escape or crushed to death at the exits. This is a machine for murdering college students.

I have to think this “design” hasn’t been reviewed by an actual engineer who would surely veto the many seemingly blatant code violations. I wonder what happens to this guy’s “build it exactly as designed” mandate (and money) when engineering says you gotta make big changes?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:25 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Choire Sicha for Curbed: Yes, Build the Windowless, Bathroomless Dorm in My Backyard
posted by Nelson at 4:27 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Maybe things have gotten better in dorms from my day 25 years ago, but these look nicer in every way to what I had [except the window thing, which is minor IMHO. (I am the type to chose a basement apt in the city over a sunny apt someplace further out. )]
These rooms offer a private bathroom/shower experience instead of an open room with showerheads on 3 sides, a chance to lock my door when sleeping so I get a respite from my bully roommate, a functional kitchen so I get a respite from the cafeteria. The private bedroom area is about the size of my half of the double room I had to share, plus there's a common area. All better than what I had.

I also don't see how this is any more or less a fire trap than skyscraper style dorms, which we have plenty of in my city, some relatively new.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 4:28 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


If housing is hard to find in SoCal, even the worst housing is probably better than living-in-car life, which I hear is a thing at UCSC.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2021


Ugh. Give him his money back.
posted by chance at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Anyone who's worked in philanthropy or with rich people knows those rich people who use their money to stroke their own ego (or get others to do it) but forcing institutions to pretend you're an actual architect is just on another level of cringe.

It's incomprehensible though. The project is ridiculously expensive, $900 per square foot, $333,000 per room, and Munger is only donating 13% of the cost. Strangely, UCSB even calls the design "cost effective". Surely they'd be better off just building anything even slightly more affordable while telling him to go kick sand.

There must be something else to this story, because it just doesn't add up.
posted by ssg at 4:57 PM on October 29, 2021 [14 favorites]


i’ve been trying to figure out why it all seemed offensive, and was describing it out loud. my wife then said “oh, it’s open-plan living. you know, like an open-plan office.”

i remembered that this was all about “collaboration and interaction”

and i was filled with terror.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 4:58 PM on October 29, 2021 [36 favorites]


Dang. This is an alternate backstory to The Cube.
posted by egypturnash at 4:59 PM on October 29, 2021 [13 favorites]


I don’t know if it’s the case at UCSB, but some schools require freshmen to live on campus.

Some kids who don't want to live in a windowless warren just won't apply to UCSB. Others that are admitted will go to UCSD instead.

There must be something else to this story, because it just doesn't add up.

A bunch of admins who will leave before this is completed, much less before the cows come home to roost, get to point to notional "accomplishments" to the hiring committees made up of other places' equally dumpshit admins. I'm the development officer that got a $200M donation! I was in charge of a billion dollar building project!
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:03 PM on October 29, 2021 [8 favorites]


Fuck this guy. Fuck him. (Munger that is)
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:17 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Maybe things have gotten better in dorms from my day 25 years ago, but these look nicer in every way to what I had

My dorms had a baseline of privacy and security and windows (except for the kitchens and bathrooms) 25 years ago. It's not hard to build them like that. Even ones built over the ruins of the Manchester slums that inspired The Communist Manifesto.
posted by ambrosen at 5:18 PM on October 29, 2021 [4 favorites]


Compare this to the private student mega-development being built near my house. Windows windows windows! I walk by it almost daily, and it looks like a nice place to live.
posted by fimbulvetr at 5:28 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


A bunch of admins who will leave before this is completed, much less before the cows come home to roost, get to point to notional "accomplishments" to the hiring committees made up of other places' equally dumpshit admins. I'm the development officer that got a $200M donation! I was in charge of a billion dollar building project!

Sure, I can buy some admins and committee members being fooled by this, but someone is presumably saying yes, you can have $1.3 billion dollars (more than UCSB's entire annual budget) to build a mega-dorm. Surely they would have to borrow money for this and someone would have to crunch the numbers. I can fully believe a big bureaucracy is capable of all kinds of stupidity, but this seems beyond even that.
posted by ssg at 5:30 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Out of fairness they should cancel all the exterior windows -- but maybe include painted-on, false windows for cosmetic purposes.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 5:47 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


It's brutalism without the concrete!

This is a slur on brutalist buildings, many of which have gorgeous interiors.
posted by Dysk at 6:03 PM on October 29, 2021 [17 favorites]


But look at the suite common area, the only thing you can do is sit at a table. There's no place to slouch around on couches or chairs with your suitemates, watching tv, playing video games, just hanging out.

Great if you're into board-meeting roleplay, I guess.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:04 PM on October 29, 2021 [10 favorites]


wow.
Don’t even know where to start…
Gaucho alum, here, who was lucky to have been placed in the smallest dorm on campus with the smallest dining commons. But this was eons ago- I barely recognize UCSB or Isla Vista nowadays. Which is fine but—-
USCB is just overdeveloped and is no longer sustainable. Ask those in Isla Vista, ask students with no place to live…

I can’t even get my head around these rooms without windows (at one of the most beautiful campuses in the UC system); floor upon floor of rooms… And (according to the Curbed article) there is no parking plan in place.

So many questions!! So many concerns!!
Head hurts… going to visit my crouton garden now…
posted by calgirl at 6:06 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Apparently there are other views:
I know nothing about Charlie Munger's UCSB plan, but it appears that he *already* funded a dorm with this design at U Michigan. The building seems to be rated 8.8/10 by residents, and that appears to be the highest rating of any campus apartments. (apt listing link)
posted by PhineasGage at 6:19 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


This just opened across from San Jose State; it looks like it has plenty of windows for the grad students. While this is a private development, it's a flexible option for students to live near the school in a very hostile housing market.
posted by JDC8 at 6:28 PM on October 29, 2021


Michigan is 600 students and UCSB proposal is for 4500 in one building-
Still can’t visualize the scale…
posted by calgirl at 6:32 PM on October 29, 2021


That is not enough toilets for an 8 person house unit

I have lived in a one-bathroom share house with seven other women. You are correct.
posted by bendy at 6:53 PM on October 29, 2021 [13 favorites]


Munger maintains the small living quarters would coax residents out of their rooms and into larger common areas, where they could interact and collaborate.

Or introverts and those who don't like other people would be jumping out the windows of their single rooms to their dea... Oh wait, that makes sense.
posted by bendy at 6:56 PM on October 29, 2021 [10 favorites]


Or introverts and those who don't like other people would be jumping out the windows of their single rooms to their dea...

A few years ago, Boston College bought a high-rise apartment building (with an interesting history) near its campus to convert into dorm rooms. One of the first things they did was block access to all the apartments' balconies, although probably more because of what drunk students might do, not suicidal ones.
posted by adamg at 7:32 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


A quote from from the link provided by traveler_at to the Wit and Wisdom of Munger: “I think Warren [Buffet] and I [Munger} know the edge of our competency better than other people do.” Ahem....
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 7:49 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


"Forget the damned motor car and built cities for lovers and friends."

-Lewis Mumford

Welcome to Columbus
posted by clavdivs at 7:59 PM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


This is a slur on brutalist buildings, many of which have gorgeous interiors.

And windows! (Though rarely, in my experience, openable windows, or a functional HVAC system.)

That is not enough toilets for an 8 person house unit

That was my first reaction looking at the plans. At a minimum, the showers and toilets should be separate so there could at least be separate lines. But even with that it would be a rough experience to live there. Maybe I am showing my age but I can't think of anything worse than being #4 in line for the bathroom in the morning.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:18 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


The U Michigan apartments seem to have a lot more amenities. Rooftop track, laundry in unit.
posted by bendy at 8:24 PM on October 29, 2021


I can buy some admins and committee members being fooled by this, but someone is presumably saying yes, you can have $1.3 billion dollars (more than UCSB's entire annual budget) to build a mega-dorm.

Bond issue, presumably.
posted by praemunire at 8:57 PM on October 29, 2021


The U Mich apartments have a private bathroom for each bedroom, and each suite has a living room with light and actual couches and armchairs. As well as a kitchen that is actually a kitchen, with stoves, as opposed to the UCSB suites who have neither a stove nor a microwave. The lack of natural light in the bedrooms is still kind of crappy, but there is really no comparison to these prison-level facilities.
posted by tavella at 8:59 PM on October 29, 2021 [10 favorites]


The tenants in the photos all look so fake.
posted by bendy at 9:25 PM on October 29, 2021


ok this is terrible, but when some freshman there in 15 years screams "what kind of sick fucking psycho designed this hellhole??!!" --something everyone in a dorm always says-- in this case she will be completely on point.
posted by wibari at 10:27 PM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


When those weird mechanisms on the blueprints that no one understands spring to life on the night after the students move in and the building becomes a giant ritual sacrifice machine and grant the architect eternal life, then his grand vision will finally be understood.

Try jamming 4,500 folks into a Wicker Man, and then you'll see why Munger went this route instead.
posted by gtrwolf at 11:10 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


> Dwarf Fortress: The College Years

I looked at the PDF and it did indeed remind me quite strongly of some of my own designs for housing in the game Dwarf Fortress, except only 12 stories? Inefficient use of the z-levels.

I liked to think of my dorm (dwarm?) designs not as dank, irregular, rough-hewn cave-holes, but as highly-efficient-yet-immobile spaceship habitation pods carved inside of mountains.
posted by glonous keming at 11:17 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Is this somehow related to that other billionaire’s project? You don’t need windows when you’re on MetaFilter!
posted by romanb at 12:13 AM on October 30, 2021


Maybe I’m cynical, but UCSB may be playing a pretty interesting game here… Have local government turn it down, inoculating the university from future citizen objections about failing to address affordable housing. Meanwhile, during the inevitable litigation, they wait for the 97 year old donor to also meet the inevitable. After he dies, they work out something reasonable with the heirs, who probably know the old man is nuts. Finally, the city comes around because they really do want the additional student housing to help cool down an overheated market, a nice building is constructed and everybody wins.
posted by carmicha at 12:19 AM on October 30, 2021 [9 favorites]


It seems so absurd that it can be legal to have rooms without windows, and that so many MeFites find it OK. Living for years in a dorm like that must have health consequences. Well, maybe you get out as soon as you can find something better, but still.
Also, and this is as least as important: I feel that in this day and age, unsustainable construction should also be banned, and specially in a university context. I don't know anywhere it is yet, but a person who claims he wants to do good for young people should inform himself about the current danger to those same young people's future existence.
posted by mumimor at 3:23 AM on October 30, 2021 [7 favorites]


Windowless bedrooms go back at least as far as the Romans. Everything old etc.
posted by BWA at 5:10 AM on October 30, 2021 [3 favorites]


BWA, those links are gorgeous. But, a room with an opening onto an outdoor or a naturally ventilated space is not a windowless room in the same sense as the ones in those dormitories. I've stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast in Oaxaca where there was no window, but just a wrought iron door/gate on to a beautiful patio.
And from a fire-safety point of view, there is a huge difference between a two story building and a tall building.
posted by mumimor at 5:33 AM on October 30, 2021 [3 favorites]


Maybe they're gambling on the chance that Munger will pop his clogs before the thing gets permitted and they'll build something better with his small donation.
posted by scruss at 6:16 AM on October 30, 2021


Why is there no space for sufficient bathrooms but an entire room devoted to table tennis in each pod? How fucking into ping pong does this old coot think college kids are?

The design is madness. There’s at least one room in each pod that is inaccessible if someone opens the refrigerator. It’s like he looked at a miserable cube farm in some dead end job building, and went “welp most of these ingrates are headed here anyway post-graduation, better start indoctrinating them now”
posted by caution live frogs at 6:41 AM on October 30, 2021 [25 favorites]


Yeah, the scenario of UCSB just waiting for the deus ex machina of whatever code authority has jurisdiction here to nullify the building as proposed seems more likely to me than that they'll actually build it. But then again, in my experience, the UC system is its own code authority, so who knows. My understanding is that the person resigning basically works for that authority at UCSB. As someone else said, it could be killed by the building engineers as well - there's a whole lot of mechanical ventilation that's going to have to happen in this building that I don't see any provision for.

It seems so absurd that it can be legal to have rooms without windows, and that so many MeFites find it OK.
My reading of the thread is that the vast majority think it's not OK and I'm not sure why you feel the need to shame people.

I feel that in this day and age, unsustainable construction should also be banned, and specially in a university context.

That's another reason I think it'll be nullified by a code authority, assuming there's some entity outside UC that can do so - at least in the US, California is the closest to basically mandating sustainable construction and I don't see how the building as designed can possibly conform to any reading of sustainability. The base code is pretty stringent on energy usage, and then a bunch of communities have gone so far as to mandate net-zero energy use. Universities tend to be a lot more progressive about that kind of thing as well, which makes this all doubly bizarre. A building that is totally reliant on artificial light and mechanical ventilation doesn't seem like it'll fly in that context.
posted by LionIndex at 6:56 AM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Actually, there's a pretty large duct chase at every bathroom, but it still might not be enough. And who controls the thermostat for the 64 people living in your pod?

I was thinking security would be another issue - if you live in this building, what all do you have access to and how is your access limited? There are at least three different levels of access to control here - (1) your own room (2) your galley with 7 other people (3) your "house" with 63 other people, and I guess (4) the residential portion of the building itself, since I'd think they'd like to have the store and other ground floor things open to people who don't live in the building. Managing that many keycards is going to be some shit, never mind if they use physical metal keys. What happens if the power goes out/gets cut off for fires?
posted by LionIndex at 7:07 AM on October 30, 2021 [6 favorites]


I was considering security questions for fire alarms, too. It's not actually a firetrap despite the two entrance issue, each 'house' does have an emergency evacuation stairway that opens to the outside. Which does not surprise me, because generally fire marshal don't play, even with billionaires. But fire alarms, which if they are anything like my dorm at college will go off quite often, usually at night. I assume they'll use zoned fire alarms, but at least in SF that still requires a total of four floors surrounding the alarm to evacuate.

So that's 2000 people standing outside, and it may be sunny SoCal but it still gets nippy at night in the winter. Emergency exits are normally locked from the outside, so they are going to have to go around to the entrances, so that's a thousand people trying to crowd in at once for each, and then there's 10 elevators which look like standard size so maybe 10 people in each? 20 trips later the last poor suckers get to go back to sleep. It's not clear if the main hallway stairs are regular stairs that you can use to go from floor to floor, but even if that's an option, if the alarm was floors 7-10 that's pretty annoying to climb.

So my guess is that pretty damn soon people are going to either start ignoring fire alarms or relocating themselves to other floors with no screaming alarms (if the internal stairs allow access floor to floor.) Especially if they can get into other floors' great rooms.
posted by tavella at 8:42 AM on October 30, 2021 [4 favorites]


My reading of the thread is that the vast majority think it's not OK and I'm not sure why you feel the need to shame people.
Oh, I'm very sorry if it read like shaming. My intention was to point out that you need to stand up for your rights. Windowless accommodations are in my view a crime, even if it is technically legal where you live. I get that if you are in a precarious situation, you often can't fight for your human rights. That's why those of us who are more privileged need to shout out.
IMO, the tenured employees and privileged students at an academic institution like UCSB should be up in arms about this abomination.
posted by mumimor at 9:02 AM on October 30, 2021


Oh, I'm very sorry if it read like shaming.

Misread on my part then. I apologize.

My understanding of the building code used in California is that residential bedrooms actually do require an operable window, and not just for emergency egress. I don't know if dorms fall under some odd category where that's not the case, but I think it actually is technically illegal to have such a room.

The story is going national now (it came up in my feed on a computer that has no tie to this one), so maybe the deus ex machina that kills the thing will be shame.
posted by LionIndex at 9:19 AM on October 30, 2021


It's an absurd vanity project for some crazy old coot.

Looking at that long table in the 8 bedroom suite, what purpose does it serve?
You're not going to have 8 student flat mates sitting around it.
I can guarantee you're not going to want to eat off it.

And any time you want use the washroom ,shower, you have to navigate your way around it.
Poor bastards with a bedroom at the far end, Navigate the table, the island and hope no one is at the fridge
Excuse me , Excuse me. Would you mind moving. Would you mind not putting dirty laundry on it etc.
It's a prescription for constant conflict

It'll take a week before one bright student will take a screwdriver, and disassemble it. Stacking it in one of the large common areas. And then the rest will follow.

The laundry for 64 people is 5 machines
You have to navigate your way through the convivial kitchen. Dirty laundry in hand.
Maybe you can vault the kitchen island . but it's a shit show. 3 stoves , almost next to each other. Not enough room to swing a cat. you won't be able to use 3 stoves so why are they there?
It's beyond belief.

This is not designed with end users in mind at all.
And the cost is insane.
For the price of 3 small pod bedrooms you can have a million dollar house.
It's nuts.
posted by yyz at 9:36 AM on October 30, 2021 [10 favorites]


A few years ago, Boston College bought a high-rise apartment building (with an interesting history) near its campus to convert into dorm rooms. One of the first things they did was block access to all the apartments' balconies, although probably more because of what drunk students might do, not suicidal ones.

Boston’s got history with that sort of thing.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:04 AM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


One thing that strikes me is that you've got 8 people sharing a tiny kitchenette that in no way has enough storage space for 8 people's food, then 64 people sharing a more expansive kitchen area, and finally a grab-and-go store on the first floor and a "pub-style restaurant" on the top floor, but no traditional dining hall/cafeteria. I know apartment-style undergrad housing with optional or scaled-down meal plans is becoming popular on a lot of campuses, but for that to work you need to have a reasonable ratio of occupants to kitchens. How are these kids going to get their fruit loops on in the morning? 8 gallons of milk in the suite's refrigerator?
posted by drlith at 11:19 AM on October 30, 2021 [5 favorites]


In the floorplans as opposed to the computer recreations, the kitchen/laundry access isn't quite as weird, there's a gap at the end of the counter so you only have to cut through one corner of the kitchen. Still kind of awkward but not as nutty. And it looks like 5 sets of washers and dryers, which is reasonable for 64 people. But there's no folding table, and it's just generally cramped and not suited for five people to be maneuvering big bags of laundry around if at max capacity.

The 'convivial' kitchen is a real hoot. Going to be real fun trying to maneuver a pot of boiling pasta around the table to a sink to drain if people are 'conviving'. In reality, as yyz pointed out, almost certainly (if the kitchen actually gets used) most of the chairs will get yanked out and stacked somewhere and the table either moved out to the big room or shoved up against the island to be used as a workspace.

And my other big question: where the fuck are the microwaves? There's none marked or visible on either the suite kitchens or the shared house ones. UCSB students aren't allowed to have microwaves or any kind of heating element in their rooms, and the lack of a stove in the suite makes me suspect that they are counting that as a room that falls under the same ban. Even if not, are they expecting one of the students to supply one for the suite? And then argue over use, and how many they should have, etc etc.

I suppose they could stack a couple on the counter in between the sinks in the big kitchen, but that interferes with trying to use the dishwashers. Maybe it's different these days and the kids are using dorm kitchens to turn out from-scratch meals every day, but my experience of college was that 90 percent of cooking was done with a microwave, either heating up pizza or other leftovers or making soup or frozen meals. Minimum I'd expect as many as stoves, and probably twice as many.

In fact, the priorities of the whole suite kitchen are a little strange. Two refrigerators, three counters, limited food storage space, no way of actually cooking. Two refrigerators isn't *bad*, but UCSB students are allowed to keep those in their rooms, as opposed to cooking implements. Why all the counter space (leading to a lack of cabinet space) if no one is going to be preparing food?
posted by tavella at 1:02 PM on October 30, 2021 [3 favorites]


Dorms have full kitchens? I assumed most don’t and people eat a the food halls on campus. We would supply our own mini fridge for our room but there was a microwave (and a tv) in the floor’s common area.
posted by waving at 2:55 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


no traditional dining hall/cafeteria.

Seriously, and that's the best food-service model we have for large numbers of people. One big commercially equipped kitchen.
posted by mikelieman at 3:16 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


I think the answer is " the designer hasn't participated in kitchen activities for 50+ years"
posted by ®@ at 3:49 PM on October 30, 2021 [14 favorites]


Depends on the dorm, but it would be unusual to not have access to microwaves at a minimum, and looking at their Housing pages it looks like a kitchenette with a microwave is standard per hall/floor. People do have needs outside the dining hours, nor want to walk across campus every time they want a cup of coffee or instant soup while studying.

Having looked at said Housing pages, I grimly expect that despite the dreadful design, it would actually be fairly popular, because much of the rest of the housing is also dreadful, and at least this would be dreadful with a private room. As opposed to the residence hall that squishes three people into what looks like a 10x10 room, where you don't even get your own wardrobe, or the one where six people are expected to share a single toilet/shower unit.

Which still doesn't excuse them spending 1.1 billion to deliberately build a nightmare so as to get a discount of 200 million from a bonkers billionaire. Tell him to suck it, and spend 1.1b on decent housing for 4k people instead of 4.5k.
posted by tavella at 4:18 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


LionIndex: Yeah, the scenario of UCSB just waiting for the deus ex machina of whatever code authority has jurisdiction here to nullify the building as proposed seems more likely to me than that they'll actually build it. But then again, in my experience, the UC system is its own code authority, so who knows. My understanding is that the person resigning basically works for that authority at UCSB.

I think the code authority is ultimately the campus architect who is clearly already involved, so presumably they aren't going to block their own project on code grounds in the future when they already know what's in it at this point. Maybe they are hoping someone will sue them to block construction if it does not comply with the California building code, which they are supposed to be enforcing. Or they are playing some kind of game where they hope to end up with Munger's money after they discover that — to their great shock — the building can't be built in a code compliant way.
posted by ssg at 5:30 PM on October 30, 2021


Although, the California Building Code apparently does not require a window in a bedroom for natural light. As far as I can tell from quick look, bedrooms in dorms do not require an emergency egress (i.e. a window) if they are sprinklered.
posted by ssg at 5:38 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


I like fractals and architecture as much as the next nerd but this is what happens when you mix that with a near-sociopathic lack of empathy.
posted by ephemerae at 6:44 PM on October 30, 2021 [4 favorites]


nm
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:36 PM on October 30, 2021


I can't help thinking that this is an attempt to speed up the school to prison pipeline. Or, at the very least, get future prisoners acclimated early.
posted by Philofacts at 8:44 PM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


Munger-Michigan may be highly rated but that must be due to the amenities and not the design and construction. Here is a series of photos and frankly, it looks cheap and depressing. Terrible color choices, gray, brown and a yellowy-beige, and poor lighting, what looks like particle board cabinets and vinyl upholstery.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:34 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Here is a series of photos and frankly, it looks cheap and depressing
Yeah, I can almost smell how this will look in five years.
posted by mumimor at 1:49 AM on October 31, 2021


Here is a series of photos ...

Can't get over number 4, the bedroom for the couple, which features a queen-sized bed right at stumbling distance next to two computer chairs, which are at two computers at a built-in desk on the windowless wall. It's as if the computers, the seat of a student's research, center of their work and focus of their days, are twin sinks in a Jack and Jill bathroom. You can just about handle a computer so close to you if you're at a library doing a quick search or print, but this? I know some couples can poop next to each other, but even for them, there are limits.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:12 AM on October 31, 2021 [3 favorites]


also in that series, this cursed image
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:24 AM on October 31, 2021



Though Michigan looks done on the cheapest way, it has one advantage over UCSB.

The base unit of 8 people has access to a common area with natural light. 2 large fridges, 2 stoves ,2 microwaves. There are couches as well as tables.
Each individual also has a private bathroom.

At UCSB it takes 64 people to have that privilege. 64 people share 4 fridges, 3 stoves, zero microwaves. No couches
No private bathrooms.

That's quite the downgrade.
posted by yyz at 11:30 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]


I think the code authority is ultimately the campus architect who is clearly already involved, so presumably they aren't going to block their own project on code grounds in the future when they already know what's in it at this point.

That's what I mean - I think the guy that's resigning in the article worked for the office of the campus architect.
posted by LionIndex at 11:41 AM on October 31, 2021


Though Michigan looks done on the cheapest way, it has one advantage over UCSB.

Yeah, worth it to note as well that the UM housing is for graduate students, who tend to prefer/have more choice in where they live (still not a lot of options in Ann Arbor proper, but more than undergrads have). Even then, the UM project was not without its critics at the time. Graduate students at the University of Michigan object to details -- including the rent -- of a new residence hall funded by billionaire alum.

That article also includes an axonometric view that demonstrates why the UM housing is at least marginally better than the UCSB plan.

The real crime, though, was the demolition of Crazy Jim's Blimpy Burger to build it.
posted by Preserver at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2021


I don’t know if it’s the case at UCSB, but some schools require freshmen to live on campus.

Which just means some high-school seniors who don't want to live in a windowless warren will either not apply to UCSB at all, and some UCSB admits will go to another UC or CSU they got into.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:00 PM on October 31, 2021


64 people share 4 fridges

Weirdly enough, fridges are about the only thing that is in reasonable supply! Students can have small fridges in their room, and there's two fridges in each suite (the other one is at the far end from the main kitchen) as well as the four in the house kitchen. It's just that the only supplied form of heating anything you take out of the fridge or freezer is the three stoves in the house kitchen. I guess Munger believes college students should live on cold salads and ice cream. I sure that they will retrofix this (if it ever gets built) by sticking microwaves somewhere in the suite or stacking some on the counters in the kitchen, but it's the 2020s, newbuilt kitchens have microwave cabinets just like they have built in space for refrigerators. As you can see in the UMich suites.

Also, moderately amusing in regards to Munger's table fetish, you can see in the UMich photo sequence that they've yanked the table out the kitchen even before the place opened (if it ever was put in). Once you do that, it's a decent working space. There's a second sink on the other side, so you have two functional working triangles. If all 8 couples want to cook a full dinner every night, it'd be a problem, but I doubt that is typical for grad students so it probably serves.

What would kill me is that there's only a single combined non-suite space for all 16 people. So if you want natural light, you have to go for the space with two TVs and a kitchen. So it's either natural light or peace to focus in, no third option. But assuming you can adjust to a lack of light, I could see why they'd be decently popular given how terrible student housing often is.
posted by tavella at 1:40 PM on October 31, 2021


I wonder if his table fetish explains all those ping pong tables?
I mean no windows and tables everywhere you look.

But at Michigan its only 8 people not 16.
It's a bit confusing , given the photo number 4 which shows a couple and a double bed.
But they are described as being single occupancy bedroom units which just happen to have a double bed,
'You’ll join other graduate students in a furnished apartment with 6 or 7 single-occupancy bedroom suites, each with a private bathroom. "
Unusual.
Maybe they got a deal on double beds and just decided to jam it in the limited space.
That would fit with the cheapest hurried look .
posted by yyz at 2:12 PM on October 31, 2021


My mistake , the school website states 6 or 7 people per apartment unit not 8.

You’ll join other graduate students in a furnished apartment with 6 or 7 single-occupancy bedroom suites, each with a private bathroom
posted by yyz at 2:28 PM on October 31, 2021


Huh. I'm wondering where the other bedroom went in UMich. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the units had only 7 with the space for the 8th being used for building mechanical, but I'm wondering if they building-wide repurposed a bedroom for storage? Or maybe they just realized they needed way more space for mechanical than they thought after they had done that drawing

Anyway, if they are only doing singles instead of couples, the light issue would still suck but it's otherwise a fairly livable space for 6-7 people -- the fridges in particular become much more reasonable. Also, the website mentions specifically that each bedroom has climate control, and I believe it was mentioned that this would be not true for UCSB. Another thing that would drive me bonkers; I need it cool to sleep, and one of the lovely things about living in most parts of California is that you can fix that issue by opening a window at night, for all but a couple weeks of the year. So not having that option nor any control over the thermostat, yuck.

Aha, found someone giving a tour of one of the UMich apartments. As you might expect, the students have rearranged the former dining side into a video gaming pit, shoved the tables into the middle, and put the extra chairs (and it looks like someone's own couch) for a second TV area on the other side. Basically the sort of stuff that will be very hard to do in that weird narrow doorlined space in the suites. I'm sure they'll still do it, but I wonder if Munger looked at this kind of thing and was pissed because they were still managing to have fun social time, as opposed to sitting grimly at the table preparing to become worker bees to provide more profits for billionaires like him. Thus his "improved" version.
posted by tavella at 3:41 PM on October 31, 2021 [2 favorites]


Thank you for posting that video.

They seem to have added a guest washroom, which makes sense.
People will have friends over. It's not just flatmates.

There's also a coat rack. boot rack.
Which again makes sense for Michigan winter.
That's a bedroom gone right there.

The two large fridges , shared by 7 are full. That's surprising to me.
(how are 64 gonna share 4 fridges at UCSB ? )
The kitchen is more than adequate as he states .
They never use the second stove.
Nor apparently the second dishwasher.
Nor empty the garbage ( 4 30 into the video)
Damn they're slobs.

It also shows there's a lack of storage space
There's a lot of boxes using part of the commons.

But overall it doesn't look bad at all, provided they would just clean up
I'm not a neat freak by any means but damn , that's pretty sloppy.

That's for a 7 person graduate student unit

UCSB equivalent unit is a 64 person unit of undergrads.
It's the stuff of nightmares.

At UCSB what competent architect would put the emergency toilets on one side and the laundry on the other side of an open kitchen.
Dirty socks coming through. That's not Vinegar that's bleach.
Never mind the smell of Tide with your meal.

The more you look, the worse it seems at UCSB
posted by yyz at 4:42 PM on October 31, 2021


The video is helpful. I have definitely lived in worse places, though the windowless bedroom would get really depressing. It would be kind of ok if all you did was sleep there, but if you were working there also it would be rough.

But the UCSB dorm removes basically everything nice about the Michigan dorm and dials the dystopia to 11.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:26 PM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]


No, there are two fridges in each suite. Which honestly just makes the fridges in the main kitchen awkward. You can give each person a 4th of a fridge and freezer in a suite, it's not very practical to assign each person 1/16 of one in the house kitchen - that's like a quarter of a shelf per person. Probably what would happen is that the handful of people who did serious cooking would take them over, and then there would be fights when some one not in that group got pissed because there was no space for their party leftovers that overran the suite fridges.
posted by tavella at 5:43 PM on October 31, 2021


Huh. I'm wondering where the other bedroom went in UMich. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the units had only 7 with the space for the 8th being used for building mechanical, but I'm wondering if they building-wide repurposed a bedroom for storage? Or maybe they just realized they needed way more space for mechanical than they thought after they had done that drawing

If you look at the axonometric view I posted, the kitchen and the guest bath take up what would be the eighth bedroom. I'm not quite sure about the six-bedroom ones - maybe the seventh bedroom is taken up by an egress stair for the floor.
posted by Preserver at 6:10 PM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]


Ah, right, at one point I knew it was 7, but I think the 8-ness of the UCSB version wiped that out.
posted by tavella at 7:08 PM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]


I just know there are not enough electrical outlets in the roomettes.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:25 AM on November 1, 2021


My kids' elementary school was designed like this, so I think the guy is just stuck in the 1970s before 'natural light' became a thing. There are tons of homes in my neighborhoods with an entire face (some to the street) that originally had (some still have) no windows. Mine had none down the east side of my house until I added them.

Anyway, my kids' elementary school has 'pod classrooms', so 4 classrooms and a common room per grade. 2 of the classrooms are to the interior, with no windows. One is to the exterior, with a normal-house sized window for a 30X20 room. And yes, you are correct there are utility closets with exterior windows, though overall there aren't very many windows on the building.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:35 AM on November 1, 2021


Charlie Munger is 97 years old. It's likely that he won't live to see his vision come to fruition so he'll always be able to think of himself as a genius, visionary architect and never actually see the reality of the implementation of this plan.
posted by mhum at 11:19 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


Commentary from Henry Grabar at Slate: "The Munger Games: Maybe the Santa Barbara nightmare dorm is the best we can do."

"...it is very much the logical outcome of several familiar trends: donor-driven public institutions, colleges desperately competing for students, and a nationwide housing shortage."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:35 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]


But how do they vent the pot smoke??
posted by bendy at 8:23 PM on November 1, 2021


Looking at the videos of the U Mich dorm put me into fight-or-flight mode. They're depressing on a rendering but when you add in all the ugly clutter? So my choice is to sit in a fetid little room with fluorescent light, or get a little sun but it's among clutter and mess and other people's noise in a common room without a speck of privacy? I would seriously gnaw my own arm off.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:04 PM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


CNN Business: Here's what it's like to live in one of Charlie Munger's windowless dorms , interviews residents of the University of Michigan Munger building:
Louise Batta, a PhD student, disagrees. She wasn't aware her room wouldn't have windows -- she said there were no pictures on the website, and due to Covid she couldn't tour in person. Batta said she immediately began getting headaches because of ventilation issues.
It definitely seems like mixed reviews - they found plenty of students who don't mind the lack of windows - but personally, I really value the light and air a window provides.
posted by kristi at 8:02 AM on November 2, 2021 [3 favorites]


BoingBoing transcribed Munger's CNN interview and ooof, he is doubling and tripling down:
CNN
The vast majority of the single occupancy rooms in this dorm are going to have no windows. Can you explain why that is?

Munger
Well, that's not quite true. Every bedroom in this dorm has an artificial window. And that artificial window delivers the exact spectrum of daylight. So when you look at that window, with that configuration, you cannot tell what is artificial by looking at it. In addition, the student in this room can twist a knob, and you can brighten up the sun or dim it down. And so if he wants it a little cheerier, he can brighten up the sun on a dark day. If he wants it romantic, he can dim it down. Imagine having a window that you can't tell is artificial by looking at it. But you can change the amount of sunlight coming through to your order if you want, it's better than on a real window.

[...] I will admit the very sound of "windowless bedroom" sounds awful. But A, it isn't windowless, and B, if it were it would still be quite endurable, but it's not. It's gonna be better than a real window not worse.
THAT'S NOT A WINDOW. THAT'S A LAMP.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:28 AM on November 2, 2021 [14 favorites]


Wow, "quite endurable", lovely thing to commit yourself to lifelong indentured servitude to pay for.
posted by bleep at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2021 [7 favorites]


BoingBoing transcribed Munger's CNN interview and ooof, he is doubling and tripling down

God that's infuriating, HE'S infuriating, hooray for our system which concentrates vast wealth into the hands of the worst people in the world.
posted by JHarris at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2021 [2 favorites]


I keep coming back to this:
Imagine having a window that you can't tell is artificial by looking at it.
I mean: yes, I can imagine that; many many producers of written and visual sci-fi have imagined just that; a lightbox on the wall is not that. And y'know how I can tell it's not a window? BECAUSE I CAN'T SEE THE OUTSIDE WORLD THROUGH IT.

I feel like he's convinced himself that "no, it has windows: artificial windows" is a winning response here.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:50 PM on November 2, 2021 [7 favorites]


My firm has used that light product in buildings, but only where we can't have a window for some reason having to do with the existing building. We don't design the whole building around it.
This is probably the product.
posted by LionIndex at 3:17 PM on November 2, 2021 [5 favorites]


He should spend some time in a room with a "window" that's just a lamp and see how he likes it.
posted by mollweide at 7:33 PM on November 2, 2021


y'know how I can tell it's not a window? BECAUSE I CAN'T SEE THE OUTSIDE WORLD THROUGH IT.

Also, air. I know he probably lives in some super-insulated place with the finest ventilation money can buy, but for lots of people being able to open a window, get some fresh air, and feel a connection with the world outside is actually one of those human experiences that makes things better. Especially in a place with nice weather.

He seems a "logical" reductivist type: I've designed a perfect solution, so no one will dislike it. But humans feature variety and one-size-fits-all only serves for things that aren't important. A normal room with windows offers flexibility: you can close the window, cover it, and put up an OLED or whatever display and voila, you've got Munger's room if that's what you really want. But Munger's room has no flexibility: it's his way or the highway, and if you have a different inner life or immune system than he imagines you'll just have to be a casualty of one-size-fits-all.
posted by trig at 4:12 AM on November 3, 2021 [8 favorites]


Also, air.

probably new dorms have windows that don't open, like hotel rooms do, though, to cut down on people throwing things or falling or jumping out, or deciding to climb to the roof like Batman
posted by thelonius at 6:19 AM on November 3, 2021


One thing I don't see on the ground floor plans for UCSB is a loading dock.

There are 10 normal elevators plus 2 larger ones. (presumably freight}
But they are grouped together in the central core , on the single wide corridor that runs North -South to the only two entrances .
The smaller east west corridors only lead to narrower doors.

How are they gonna supply the roof top city market, gastro pub etc?
How are they gonna move stuff up and down?
Are they going to use the only main corridor?
Seems odd.
Is there an underground component?
posted by yyz at 1:29 PM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


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