Munger Hall, The Most Hated Building In The World

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That foresees screens instead of windows

A philanthropist is funding a California college that will house 4,500 students in 20,000-square-foot cells with no ventilation or natural light. Munger Hall, the world's most hated architecture project in fall 2021, is so outlandish it's fascinating. What is Munger Hall? A planned high school in Santa Barbara, California, that will occupy 156,000 square meters (for scale: the largest El Corte Inglés building in Spain occupies 55,000 square meters) on 11 floors, arranged to house 4,500 students. What is interesting is that these inhabitants will occupy rooms of 6.4 square meters and that, in 94% of the cases, they will have no natural light or ventilation. Munger Hall has no courtyards, no façade to create a facade or any kind of porosity that would allow the interior to be ventilated. Munger Hall is a monolith of approximately 120 meters on each side. Its rooms will be single (in the United States, colleges usually offer double rooms), will be grouped in apartments of eight cells (with two bathrooms and a kitchen to prepare breakfast) and will have, instead of windows, plasma screens that will follow circadian rhythms. That is: they will emit a slightly different color at four o'clock in the afternoon than at six o'clock in the evening and then, at night, they will turn very dark blue.

The building will also have generous parking for surfboards, living areas on the perimeter and in the penthouse (with windows onto the street), laundry rooms and communal kitchens in the basement (those who have calculated the spaces consider them to be very insufficient) and a 97-year-old millionaire benefactor whose interest in leaving such a legacy is a mystery. Some context: the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), the university that will receive $200 million from Munger to build the college, has been in a serious housing crisis for years and has estimated a shortfall of 10,000 student housing units. Housing appreciation in the city is driving students away from UCSB. That backdrop explains, at least in part, the search for radical ergnes solutions like Munger Hall. A detail of Munger Hall's room floors. On the right are the cells. Charlie Munger is the novelistic character of this story. Lawyer, card player, investor, holder of a fortune estimated at 1,720 million dollars... In recent years he has already financed the construction of colleges for the universities of Stanford and Michigan and other projects in several educational centers in Southern California. The $200 million he will give away for Santa Barbara will not cover the entire planned investment (estimated at $1.5 billion) but it is enough for Munger to have imposed his project and his architect, Navy F Banvard of VTBS.... ...who is, in fact, a qualified tutor rather than the author of the project. Banvard has stated in Dezeen magazine that the design of the residence "emanates from Mr. Munger's research and his ongoing work in transforming the concept of the student residence." His client's relationship with architecture is contradictory. On occasion he has referred ironically to the architect's profession, and on other occasions he has played the designer of other student residences and of his family home. His references are atypical: Munger, for example, has said that digital windows already work very well in Disney cruise ships and has recalled that, in them, the stars give sparkles, which represents an obvious improvement of the natural model. Banvard, for his part, acknowledges that Santa Barbara's approach is a "social experiment." The common areas of Munger Hall. The project is already underway despite the fact that it has provoked derision, resignations, criticism and backlash campaigns.

The most obvious has to do with the conditions of habitability and environmental sustainability. How much does it cost and what energy expenditure does it require to air and light a building without windows? And that, in California, with a very kind climate. Then there are the complaints that have to do with the common good and urban planning: the façade of Munger Hall has a slight air of historic architecture, but makes no effort to contribute something to the public space, to the street. And, finally, there are the political ones: does a millionaire have the right to decide the infrastructure of a public university, to decide how people who are not even his clients should live? But in her own way, Munger Hall is also modern. Its way of life will be dense, as dense as that of the most saturated neighborhoods in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as its critics have noted. It is a living machine pushed to its limits in a country plagued by urban sprawl. Moreover, its floor plan drives the flow of residents into the city's most saturated neighborhoods.