The unusual “Monger Hall” residence… Will it become the eighth most crowded place in the world?
The University of Santa Barbara, Southern California, in the United States, has allowed the construction of an unusual university residence. In a report published by the newspaper “Le Figaro” (the figaroFrench writer Valerie Simson said that this university housing is the largest of its kind in the world, with a capacity of 4,500 students, and extends over an area of 156,000 square meters, and consists of 11 floors.
This project is the brainchild of the 97-year-old American billionaire Charles Munger, who takes pride in practicing architecture in his spare time without having studied this major. After pumping $200 million of his own money into the $1.5 billion construction budget, the generous billionaire stipulated that the project be built to the specifications he sets.
What is interesting about this project is that its rooms are small and have no windows, meaning that no sunlight or air will enter them and they will not have outside views. Dubbed “Monger Hall”, the university housing project will be located within the Santa Barbara campus in Southern California and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2025.
The University of Santa Barbara described the project as “interesting and revolutionary”, a godsend to reduce the shortage of student housing in line with the financial capabilities of the students, because the prices became too high. At the beginning of the last academic year, the university campus was unable to accommodate more than 1,000 students and the well-off were forced to resort to hotels.
An architecture critic in The New Yorker called the project “a hideous, twisted joke, like a university-style prison.” Denis MacFadden, a consulting architect on the Evaluation Committee of Santa Barbara University, wrote in his resignation statement that the project is “an intolerable social and psychological experience in my view as an architect, parent and human being.”
Besides the impact on the mental health of students living in an enclosed environment, McFadden is concerned about the extreme density that would make Munger Hall housing “the eighth most densely populated place on the planet right behind the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka”.
MacFadden noted that the building only has two emergency exits on the ground floor, raising safety concerns for its occupants in the event of an evacuation. McFadden also stressed the need to evacuate the building in the event of a power outage, due to its reliance on artificial light and mechanical ventilation.
Munger seems unconcerned with these criticisms and his argument that “architecture is a diverse area”, and argues that small, windowless rooms will encourage students to spend more time in common spaces, working and collaborating on projects, given that university dormitories have very few spaces. Open to natural light.
Not the first project
The writer stated that this project is not the first of its kind for Munger, he has already established university housing without windows on the campus of the University of Michigan.
A student at the University of Michigan spoke about her experience – in an interview with CNN – where she confirmed that she suffered from headaches shortly after due to the noise from mechanical ventilation, and her circadian rhythm changed and it was difficult for her to wake up in the morning. This negatively affected her university experience.
Other students praised the quality of the facilities in the university housing, such as the gymnasium, study rooms and common spaces, knowing that the project faced a campaign of ridicule and unnatural mockery on social media.
Despite the impact of the resounding resignation of engineer Dennis MacFadden, whose statement was published in many national media outlets, the university stresses that the project is still on the right track. The building will be evaluated by the California Coastal Commission in 2022, amid allegations that the building distorts the University of Santa Barbara’s exceptional site.