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Charlie Munger defends his design for a dormitory building in California

Billionaire Charlie Munger is defending his design for a dormitory building in California amid backlash from a consulting architect on the project.

The blueprints for “Munger Hall” call for an 11-story building that could house 4,500 students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with 94% of the single-occupancy rooms lacking windows, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. 

The proposal led architect Dennis McFadden to resign recently from the school’s design review committee over concerns about the lack of natural light, according to the Independent.

“Everybody loves light and everybody prefers natural light. But it’s a game of tradeoffs,” Munger said in an interview. “If you build a big square building, everything is conveniently near to everybody in the building. If you maximize the light, you get fewer people in the building.”

Munger, a vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Warren Buffett’s right-hand man, has long dabbled in architecture and is known for having some peculiar design ideas.

His donations to universities and other schools often come with the catch that he’ll play a hand in how the buildings look. In 2019, he told the Wall Street Journal that “architects don’t love me.”

Munger donated $200 million to UCSB to use on the dormitory for undergraduates. The donation came with the condition that his blueprints be followed precisely, the Independent reported. 

In his resignation letter, McFadden said that the dorm’s design discounts the importance of natural light for mental and physical well-being, according to the Independent. Critics on Twitter also panned Munger’s proposal.

Munger has argued that smaller living quarters will encourage students to congregate in common spaces together and that the design will help keep costs down for a project with a total price tag of roughly $1.5 billion.

He said the building design was an “improved” version of one he had funded at the University of Michigan, where he donated $100 million to support a residence for graduate students.

“I was just there last month. We picked students at random and they’re all crazy about it,” Munger said. “We’re copying the existing building that’s a great success and we improved on it.”

 

 

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