Billionaire investor Charles Munger’s design for Munger Hall, a much-criticized student dormitory at the University of California, was informed by Le Corbusier and “will last as long as the pyramids,” he said in an interview defending the project.
Munger defended his vision of a 1.68 million square feet (156,000 square meters) building, which would house 94 percent of its 4,500 students in windowless rooms, in an interview with the American magazine Architectural Record.
The controversial project gained worldwide attention earlier this week when architect Dennis McFadden resigned from a University of California committee protesting the design.
Munger eliminated the “mistakes” made by Corbusier
Speaking to the Architectural Record, Munger, 97, said his design for the student housing block at the University of California at Santa Barbara was based on the iconic Modernist housing project Unité d’Habitation in Marseille by the modernist architect Le Corbusier.
He claimed he had improved Le Corbusier’s design, which was “too narrow to make spaces interesting”.
“It didn’t work out, it was worth shit,” Munger told Architectural Record writer Fred Bernstein.
“I corrected that,” he said. “We took Corbusier’s mistakes and the mistakes in university accommodation and eliminated them one by one. “
Architect McFadden resigned because he said he was “disturbed” by the design of the building, which would have “virtual” windows in almost every room, according to The Washington Post.
This idea of replacing windows with virtual windows came from Disney cruise ships, Munger explained in the Architectural Record interview.
“We had a shortage of windows,” he said. “So we just copied what Disney Cruises did. The way Disney does it, the window is really a television. These work wonderfully on ships. “
“But I wanted to have a spectrum of sunlight, so with a curtain hanging over it, you couldn’t tell if it was man-made or real,” he added.
“I figured out how to do this. Programming the lights to copy the sun was too expensive. So we’re going to give the students buttons, and they can have the light they want. Real windows don’t do that.”
Munger Hall comes out “much larger than normal”
Besides the lack of windows, the number of entrances and exits – 14 for the whole building – also raised eyebrows. Munger said the design complies with safety regulations.
“I’m a security nut,” he said. “There are enough outlets to satisfy all the codes, and they are much larger than normal.”
Additionally, he said the material used for the dormitory had its own safety benefits. “It’s a wet concrete building,” he told Architectural Record.
“Do you know how many fire losses there have been in the history of concrete sprinkler buildings? About zero.”
The concrete building will be fabricated off-site, which Munger says will “last as long as the pyramids.”
“I have been doing this for a long time and I know more”
Although Munger has no architectural training, he believes buildings similar to Munger Hall will “push all of America.” However, he does not think universities should normally let donors choose the architect of their buildings.
“If you allow the donor to choose the architect, which has been done in a lot of places, the buildings look like crap,” he told Architectural Record.
“But that’s a special case. I’ve been doing it for a long time and know more about it. And I have a really good architect helping me, Navy F Banvard [a principal at VTBS Architects], who is one of California’s leading apartment building architects. “
Munger has already contributed buildings to other campuses, including Stanford and the University of Michigan.
The University of California at Santa Barbara building has not yet been approved by the California Coastal Commission.
The main image of Munger Hall is courtesy of the University of California, Santa Barbara.