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University Architecture of the New Gilded Age

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I love this story so much. It’s the most New Gilded Age story possible.

“Absolutely stunning” is how the University of California, Santa Barbara, described plans for Munger Hall, a towering residence hall for more than 4,500 students that was designed by Charles T. Munger, a billionaire and an executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

But Dennis McFadden, an architect who served as a consultant on the university’s design review committee, did not agree. On Oct. 24, in a scathing letter to the chairwomen of the committee, he announced that he was resigning over the university’s decision to approve a design he likened to “a social and psychological experiment.”

He said he was “disturbed” by a design that would cram the students into a 1.7-million-square-foot, 11-story building and make the vast majority of them live in small rooms without windows, “wholly dependent on artificial light and mechanical ventilation.”

“In the nearly fifteen years I served as a consulting architect to the DRC, no project was brought before the committee that is larger, more transformational and potentially more destructive to the campus as a place than Munger Hall,” he wrote in the letter. “The basic concept of Munger Hall as a place for students to live is unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent and a human being.”

Wait, who is the architect here?

Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic for The New Yorker, said the concept showed “how far UCSB has fallen since the days when it had architects like Charles Moore.”

“This design is a grotesque, sick joke — a jail masquerading as a dormitory,” he said on Twitter, linking to a story by The Santa Barbara Independent about the design. “No, design isn’t up to billionaire donors.”

Munger Hall is expected to cost more than $1 billion and will be partly funded by Mr. Munger. It is scheduled to open in 2025.

Mr. Munger, a longtime friend and business partner of Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, said that he had consulted with multiple licensed architects and other professionals.

Mr. McFadden “may not have been consulted but many other people were,” Mr. Munger said. “This is not something that’s done by a nut case in a room by himself.”

So Warren Buffett’s 97 year old buddy gave a ton of money to UCSB on the condition that HE GETS TO DESIGN THE EXPERIMENTAL DORM EVEN THOUGH HE IS NOT AN ARCHITECT!

When you are a billionaire in America, you can do anything. Is this really any different than Cory Booker bringing Mark Zuckerberg in to help redesign Newark public schools? No, no it is not.

This isn’t even the first time that a university has made this deal with Munger. The University of Michigan has this deal with him and now there’s a story about life inside Munger Hall.

Billionaire Charlie Munger’s controversial plans for a massive, windowless dorm at the University of California, Santa Barbara has left many wondering — how is this even possible?The answer is at the University of Michigan, where the Munger Graduate Residence Hall houses more than 600 graduate students in 6 to 7 bedroom apartments. And most of those single-occupancy rooms don’t have windows, either. Public policy graduate student Luiza Macedo didn’t see the sun for a full week when she had to isolate in her room at Munger Residence due to a Covid-19 scare.

“That was probably the low point of my experience here. It was being stuck in my room,” Macedo said. “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?”

Oh c’mon Luiza, we all know that these billionaires are BETTER PEOPLE THAN US. If that wasn’t true, how could they be so rich? All you do is allow them to experiment on you. That’s the roles of the proletariat of the New Gilded Age.

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