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Prison Dorm? Billionaire Donor's Design Conditions Stir Up Controversy
November 24, 2021 -
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Photo courtesy of UCSB
Access to a billionaire’s riches or doing what’s best for students paying tens of thousands of dollars for a healthy college experience? That’s the dilemma facing University of California Santa Barbara these days.
A recent Los Angeles Times article detailed a student housing crunch that has the university housing students in hotels. To help alleviate the issue, billionaire Charles Munger said in 2016 he would donate $200 million to the university for a dorm building with the condition he can design and name the building after himself.
Just a few problems here: The design goes against most of the preferred modern design treatments, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the living quarters appear more like a jail cell.
Munger’s plan is to house more than 4,500 students in a remodeled 11-story warehouse-size building, where a whopping 94 percent of the units would not have access to natural light or fresh air.
To make up for the lack of natural light, each dorm room would have a knob that manipulates the degree of artificial light used to illuminate the rooms.
Munger’s design concept is so outrageous that a longtime member of the school’s design review committee resigned in protest.
As the Times reported in the article, the university appears to be moving forward with the project. The university chancellor described the dorm as an “inspired and revolutionary design concept.”
Munger also appears to show no signs of relenting either. In an interview with CBS Marketwatch: “You’ve got to get used to the fact that billionaires aren’t the most popular people in our society. … I’d rather be a billionaire and not loved by everybody than not have any money.”
Dave Lubach is managing editor, facility market.