Clueless Billionaire Designs Almost Windowless Housing, Architect Rage Quits
Reader, do you really like billionaires? Are you a mole person who aspires to eliminate even the slightest scrap of natural sunlight from your living space? Do you find fire safety precautions to be all too melodramatic, longing for the good 'ol days when the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire went down? Well folks, if so, it seems as if Charlie Munger, the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman who is definitely not an architect is the architect for you!
Yep, in what may be a lone non-space-cowboy/UN-investigation launching example of billionaires using their wealth for absurd reasons, it seems Munger – a.k.a Warren Buffett's billionaire bestie that isn't Bill Gates, has decided to put his excess wealth to use, offering to pony up $200 million for the new Munger Hall at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a single caveat –the university stick to his exact design. Set to house roughly 4,500 students, about 94% of students would not have any natural sunlight in their bedroom unit, although the common spaces on each floor would have windows. The building, a 1.68 million-square-foot, 11 story building as a whole would also only have two entrances because nothing says smooth emergency evacuation like squeezing 5,000 kids through two doors in a matter of minutes!
Described by the school as having "a focus on providing ample interactive spaces for students, recognizing much of the knowledge students gain from their university experience comes from interacting with other students, especially in their housing," and “minimizing costs by maximizing the number of beds on a given site, employing the concept of repeatability,” the plan has received quite a bit of backlash, drawing comparisons to a gulag, a jail, Kowloon City, and self-storage units – a.k.a. the four shining beacons of housing success.
As such, Dennis McFadden, an architect and member of the school's design review committee essentially rage quit over the blueprint, stating in his scathing letter, best described as the architectural spiritual successor to the New York Times review of Guy Fieri's restaurant, that Munger's vision is “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being.”
“As the ‘vision’ of a single donor, the building is a social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the university serves,” he elaborated in his resignation letter, first appearing in an on-campus student publication.
"The project is essentially the student life portion of a mid-sized university campus in a box," he added, calling Munger Hall " … an experiment in size and density with no precedent in student housing at that scale."
In light of this criticism, Munger has stepped up, finally addressing these concerns in a statement touching at the true heart of the matter the fact that he's … *checks notes* being targeted for being a billionaire.
"You've got to get used to the fact that billionaires aren't the most popular people in our society," the nonagenarian exec told MarketWatch last week. "I'd rather be a billionaire and not be loved by everybody than not have any money." Ahh yes, the duality of man.
And as for McFadden's resignation? “It’s hard to get any two architects to ever agree about anything,” he explained. “Architecture is a game of trade-offs.” A game of trade-off involving swapping almost zero natural sunlight in kids' living quarters for $200 million, to be a little more specific.
Now, reader, I know what some of you may be thinking – “they can just go in the common room if they want sunlight! it's a great way to get those damn kids away from their dog-gone screens! How often do fires actually happen? Come on now!” Firstly, how was your 50-year-college reunion? Was the 4:30 p.m. dinner good? Did you like your goodie bag filled with complimentary Bengay and Sweet-n-Low packets? Secondly, you don't have to take it from the concerned army of students, a really pissed-off professional architect, or well, anyone sharing their concerns mentioned thus far in this article – just listen to the students who lived in the University of Michigan's also largely window-less Munger Graduate Residence Hall.
As CNN noted, this is far from Munger's first rodeo when it comes to funding nightmarishly fluorescent dorms. The proposed USBC residence hall's Michigander counterpart is apparently a sun-less hell hole where “it's almost impossible to get by without” a nightlight or some sort of artificial light, several students reportedly told the publication. One resident, graduate student Luiza Macedo, even recalled a time where she didn't see even a glimpse of the sunlight for an entire week during a pandemic-related lockdown.
"That was probably the low point of my experience here. It was being stuck in my room," she recalled. "A lot of people are incredulous that this was even a thing before all these articles came out about UCSB...like, how is this legal? How are they doing this to us?"
Billionaires – they suck at design just like us!