Dezeen Magazine

Munger Hall at UCLA Santa Barbara

UCSB begins search for alternatives to mostly windowless Munger Hall dormitory

The University of California has commenced an application process for studios to design student housing for its campus, in what appears to be a move away from its controversial Munger Hall dormitory announced in 2021.

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is accepting applications for a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) – a screening process to find suitable candidates – for the design of its UCSB Student Housing Infill and Redevelopment Project.

This would deliver "at least" 3,500 beds for undergraduate students to the UCSB campus, 3,000 of which would be located in new residential community housing.

The remaining 500 beds would be part of an East Campus Infill and Redevelopment effort that would "add additional beds within an existing community of UCSB residence hall," the university said.

According to the RFQ, which was signed by campus architect Julie Hendricks, the projected construction budget for phases 1 and 2 of the student housing project is $600 million to $750 million.

Campus to continue to work on "planning and consultation process for Munger Hall"

The RFQ appears to suggest that UCSB is moving away from its plans to build Munger Hall, a mostly windowless dorm that would house up to 4,500 students.

However, UCSB spokeswoman Kiki Reyes told local newspaper The Tribune that the campus will "continue to work on the planning and consultation process for Munger Hall with members of our campus community, donors and stakeholders," implying that the project could still be going ahead.

"The university is also actively moving forward simultaneously with plans to develop [the new housing]," Reyes added.

The controversial Munger Hall would measure 1.68 million square feet (156,000 square metres) and have fourteen entrances and exits. Its design means that 94 per cent of students living in it would reportedly be in windowless rooms, which would instead feature virtual windows simulating sunlight.

The building was conceived by billionaire Charles Munger, who donated $200 million to the project, which has an overall budget of about $1.5 billion.

Munger Hall review found "significant health and safety risks"

Last year, a review panel for the project was formed at the request of the Santa Barbara Division of the Academic Senate's Executive Council. The panel included "faculty experts, other experts and stakeholder representatives" and released a report on Munger Hall on 1 November.

This stated that "research and analysis weighed by this Panel reveal significant health and safety risks that are predictable enough, probable enough, and consequential enough that it would be unwise for UCSB to proceed without significant modifications to the design".

Among the panel's concerns were "the effect of small, windowless bedrooms on mental and physical health" and "the effect of high population density on student well-being and local infrastructure", as well as the "safety and evacuation during emergencies".

The panel suggested five design modifications that would address its major concerns, including adding operable windows to as many bedrooms as possible and increasing the size of each single bedroom.

Munger Hall attracted criticism from the beginning of the project, with architect Dennis McFadden stepping down from a University of California committee in protest over its design.

In November 2021, more than 12,000 people had signed a petition against the construction of the building, which Munger said was informed by architect Le Corbusier and would "last as long as the pyramids".

The main image is courtesy of University of California Santa Barbara.