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UC campus architects unite to oppose Munger Hall


This story was originally published by the Independent from Santa Barbara and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.


By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Eight former architects from the University of California, Berkeley, San Diego campus have come together to express their “extreme concern and opposition” to UCSB’s Munger Hall proposal. In a Nov. 17 letter to college system president Michael Drake and his board, the group says the massive dormitory project – which would store 4,500 undergraduates in small, windowless rooms – could have serious psychological effects on its occupants. “We ask you to take a step back and embrace the values ​​of a humane environment, which promotes health, safety and well-being, instead of an environment which can forever harm generations of young students. “, they wrote. Simply put, the project “is a disaster in the making,” they said.

The architects took a particular exception with the proposal price estimated to be between $ 1.2 billion and $ 1.5 billion – and noted that the cost per bed would exceed $ 330,000, making it the most expensive residential project in the history of UC that would inevitably increase the number of UCSB homes. prices. In contrast, they explained, UC Santa Barbara’s San Joaquin Villages student apartment complex, built in 2017, was only $ 166,000 per bed. The group acknowledged UCSB’s chronic housing shortage, “but this social petri dish, so alien to the character of the Santa Barbara campus, is not the answer,” they said. And the effects would not be confined to UCSB, they predicted. “A failed investment of this size is bound to reverberate throughout the university system.”

Additionally, the architects continued, the lighting and ventilation systems for the 1.68 million square foot building would require a tremendous amount of energy to operate and would be “in direct conflict with the system’s goal of carbon neutrality.” UC ”. Finally, they said, “the current COVID-19 pandemic calls into question the wisdom of residential buildings relying entirely on mechanical ventilation.”

Munger Hall’s main architect and partial funder, Berkshire Hathaway vice president Charlie Munger, has rejected near-universal criticism of its design by architects across the country. He was recently quoted as having said, “There are never two architects to agree on anything.” “Ironically,” the letter concludes, “Mr. Munger’s proposal for the Santa Barbara campus has demonstrated just the opposite: the American architectural community is opposed to it loud and clear.

The UCSB issued a statement in response to the letter, calling the criticism of the cost per bed “misleading.” “The design is not complete, so the final number for construction has yet to be determined,” the university said. “In terms of floor space, Munger Hall is quite different from a typical university residence in that it offers a lot more common areas, equipment and even spaces for academic use, which ultimately translates into a cost.” When final numbers are calculated, Munger Hall’s cost per bed will be competitive with other residences, “if not a little less,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal of the project is to provide students with a better housing experience at a lower monthly cost than they would find in Isla Vista.”

In terms of lighting and ventilation energy demands, the university said, its project team is working closely with the “chief architect” of the VTBS dormitory – to ensure that the project is “compliant. to the highest possible standards, often beyond building code requirements. . “The school said it” appreciates and understands “the concerns expressed by former campus architects, but ultimately feels that” Munger Hall was specially designed to help UC Santa Barbara meet the demand for safe, affordable, and on-campus housing that students desire while fulfilling the university’s obligation to support previous enrollment increases that have been mandated by the California legislature and governor. “

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