97-year-old billionaire and amateur-architect designs a nearly windowless mega-dormitory for 4500 students

"The dormitory's nine identical residential floors would be organized into eight "houses" with eight "suites" (shown here) with eight bedrooms. | Credit: Courtesy" — The Independent

Charles Munger, a "97-year-old billionaire-investor turned amateur-architect" gave $200 million to the University of California Santa Barbara on one condition: that no one could change his blueprints for a "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," reports The Independent. A prominent consulting architect named Dennis McFadden  who has been on the UCSB Design Review Committee for 15 years resigned in protest, calling Munger Hall "unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being."

McFadden disagreed sharply with what the university has described as "Charlie's Vision" for the benefits of a "close-knit" living experience. "An ample body of documented evidence shows that interior environments with access to natural light, air, and views to nature improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of occupants," he wrote. "The Munger Hall design ignores this evidence and seems to take the position that it doesn't matter."

So far, McFadden continued, the university has not offered any research or data to justify the unprecedented departure from normal student housing standards, historical trends, and basic sustainability principles. "Rather," he said, "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."