Learning Day: UCSB’s Self-Published Dorm 🌭

You’ve heard of self-published books, self-funded movies, and other “art” foisted on the world by a committed weirdo. Now it’s time to discover the self-published building.

That’s a mockup of a future dormitory at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It’s also the most deranged architectural project I’ve ever heard of (Non-Mad King Ludwig Division). It’s borderline evil. It’s also worse than Mad King Ludwig’s work. At least that guy was going for something. Disney only steals the good stuff. As you can see from this mockup, the good stuff this ain’t. This self-published dorm idea is a cubic nothing. It’s like if The Borg were an American exurb’s HOA president. I’ve seen better building ideas in my first 30 minutes slapping together a The Sims house – and much like this building’s designer, I draft Sims homes without any real empathy for the residents.

My Dear Hotdogger, I have a note of encouragement for you: please make art. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. Make art! Also, spare one thought for the humans around you. Because there’s one wrinkle in the artistic process, if you are the artist equivalent of a dictator. Creativity goes sour when it’s imposed on other people by force. It’s no longer a net good when a creator traps others in their work and coerces them into liking it, via money. Suddenly an artist becomes the town puppet master. One guy with a small fortune, no matter how mysteriously-gained, throws together a film set and treats dozens of grown adults like they’re his LEGO men. The horror also scales up as the budget rises. Once you’re throwing around “son of a post-Soviet oligarch” rubles, you can buy a whole-ass pop star career, built on nothing but money and personal threats to critics. So yes: making art makes your soul grow! But your soul does not eat its Breakfast of Champions if you make an Excel sheet to track your reputation-faking web of payoffs.

Back to the picture above. Until I learned about Munger Hall, I didn’t know somebody could self-publish a building. Had no idea! Technically, I’m the only person who calls this “self-published.” That’s because I’m forced to coin a name for its whole deal. Munger Hall is slated for construction thanks to a $200 million donation from benefactor Charlie Munger. The building’s designer? Amateur self-taught architect Charlie Munger. Do you notice how many of the people in this Munger Hall story are Charlie Munger? That’s because Charlie Munger is self-architecting. He wrote a check for an entire dorm building, and directed it to a university system with wobbly finances in a housing-poor state, because they simply can’t say no. They need dorms, any dorms, especially free ones. So that bars California from saying “no” to Charlie Munger’s art. Er, “no” to his architecture? Hang on, I’ve got it: his artch. Much like a Neil Breen film, or a drifter’s affordably-photocopied manifesto, Charlie Munger’s self-published artch will exist. It will get out there. And then it will confine a population of 18-year-olds against their will. Normally no artist wields that kind of power. They’re not rich enough. Other art-forcers can barely blow a thousand bucks on three lights for a movie scene. Charlie Munger is rich enough to light $200 million on fire. (Ironically, Lighting $200 Million On Fire would be a solid Andy Warhol-style short film.)

Who is Charlie Munger? He is a billionaire. He is Warren Buffett’s right-hand man (they grew up together). And folks, big number incoming: Charlie Munger is 99 years old. Are these the qualities of an architect? No! They are the qualities of someone who should’ve been retired for 50 friggin years by now. If I siphoned a chunk of Uncle Warren’s money, I’d retire in my forties and veg out. You’d find me in my palatial relaxation den, with a Brosnan flick on the teevee, munching on snacks from Secret Version Of Trader Joe’s For Rich People. But no: Charlie Munger rejects that lifestyle. He still works at Berkshire Hathaway, even though he is 99 years old. Every time I type that he is 99 years old, my brain tries to flip the numbers into a far less bonkers amount. “Please rotate so he is 66”, I think, in vain. This man is ninety-freakin-nine years old. He works a full-time capitalism job at age 99, then spends up to several hours per day on his uncalled-for amateur architecture. Why? Disruption. Or, innovation. Or something? He says he’s doing this to shake up the architectural establishment:

Yeah! Who among us hasn’t attended one show, seen two different-sized bathroom lines, and decided every trained architect is a total moron? It’s like when I drove a car one time, experienced traffic, and realized you’re all flaming imbeciles who are too thick-skulled to commute by blimp. Every one of you is an imbecile, especially the people who plan roads and cities after getting degrees in that. Also, in this story, I possess a couple billion dollars. So that lark of a thought that fluttered through my head is now your life. You’re going to enjoy the BlimpMerica(™) Fleet Inflation Apparatus-Tower I am eminent-domain-ing onto your front lawn. You’re welcome, you dullard. You’re welcome.

To Charlie Munger’s credit, this UCSB dorm is not his first dormitory project. Our artch maverick produced a few smaller student residences at other schools, through this same rigorous process of “I’m emailing you a CAD file before I mail you a check.” To Charlie Munger’s extreme discredit, his main prior project earned these testimonials:

When Charlie Munger gave his alma mater (the University of Michigan) its largest single donation in school history ($185 million), he made them use most of that money to build a 600-person dormitory. That dorm had just one window per eight humans. Each pod of eight bedrooms got one window to share. One measly window, like if we were in a Great Depression for glass. It’s like that old Disney cartoon where Mickey, Donald, and Goofy subdivide one bean for dinner. So yeah, the results of Munger’s design were not great. But the feedback drove Charlie Munger to decide everybody is a crybaby except him.

Which brings us to UCSB’s future Munger Hall. Charlie decided to treat his Michigan project like it was less of a dorm, and more of a tiny “is this a center for ants?” mockup of his true vision. He scaled that sucker up, and up, and up, until his design fit 4,500 students. He believes it can scale up that far because his chief design inspiration is Disney Cruise Line’s ships. No joke! He sees untapped wisdom for year-round living when he thinks about cruise ships (a thing you visit) and their rooms (the things you sleep in if the deck chairs are taken). 

It’s also telling that Munger brought his Costa Concordia-assed vision to UC Santa Barbara. He wrote them a $200 million check despite having no personal connection to the school. Apparently he doesn’t need that connection in his victims? Is that how psychopathy works? I don’t follow true crime stuff. Anyway, in 2021, because money, UCSB greenlit Munger’s plan. Munger Hall is a two million square foot megadorm, housing 4,500 students in 11 floors of windowless rooms. Experts call it “a jail masquerading as a dormitory”. But don’t worry, you dolt, you ignoramus, you gormless worm of an architecture non-understander: the rooms don’t need windows. Why would they need windows? What would a window in Santa Barbara even do? Offer a view of one of the most beautiful locations in the entire world? No: each room is good to go with no windows to the exterior. Each room offers something even better. That something: a “Disney-inspired” fake window. There. You are now happy with this design. You like it! After all:

Here I was valuing sunlight, when sunlight doesn’t even have the courtesy to offer me The Clapper. Buzz off, The Sun. You’re incompatible with my universal remote.

Some of you may still disagree with this great plan. Bad news: that makes you part of The Establishment. You’re like this foolish Establishment architect, who lazily criticized Munger Hall’s design without actually committing to… [reads ahead] …wow he quit his own job just because the plan is that inhumane.

There’s no way around a criticism like that. Right? I guess you could claim this architect is far more things than “an architect, a parent, and a human being.” That would make this fine. Let’s say he’s also a hot dog vendor, and he’d appreciate the daily shade of the building’s looming shadow. Let’s say he’s a sadistic dungeon keeper, and he’s practically busting out of his leather shorts with torment-anticipating glee. Let’s say the “as a parent” part flips our way because his next kid is a naked mole rat. Anyway, what happened? Once Charlie Munger heard this feedback, I’m sure he took it into– 

Yikes. Okay. But that was back in 2021. I’ll bet new perspectives got looped in, and cooler heads prevai–

That was two months ago. Munger Hall is still up on UCSB’s website today. Also apparently somebody talked them into reducing the scale slightly, down to 3,500 students on 9 floors. That update comes from another professional architect who works with UCSB, interviewed about this by the great website That architect compared Munger Hall’s design to the prior Michigan plan, plus a lot of “CTRL-C, CTRL-V.” Which is a clear sign of structural quality. Let me explain. For all you non-architect numbskulls out there, CTRL-C and CTRL-V are the keyboard commands for copy-pasting. They perform the astonishing magic of increasing something, by pasting. After copying. It’s very complex and smart. And it’s the key tool of the professional architect’s trade. Copy-pasting is as big of an architect skill as sharing a Coke with Warren Buffett, and being about to die.

That noise you hear is the Caterpillar company making construction equipment to press a huge “CTRL-C” button.

Until today, I’ve never had any personal dreams or goals related to architecture. I do listen to a great podcast about it sometimes. But it’s not in the top 10 things I think about. I’m not design-pilled. But now, I do have an architecture dream. I want to get a moment with the Innovative Structure-Master Charlie Munger. I want to sit him down, get him talking. And then I want to ask him about this quote:

Because I love life’s little punchlines. And there would be no grimmer thrill than to learn Charlie Munger thinks mouse traps are contraptions that mice choose to live in.

6 replies on “Learning Day: UCSB’s Self-Published Dorm 🌭”

If a dude has such intense problems with windows, I will always just assume that they have terrible balls and are horrified at the idea that anyone might see them.

I assume this asshole has replaced all of the dumb real windows in his mansion with these obviously superior “Disney-inspired” fake windows. Almost definitely, right?

“Munger Hall is slated for construction thanks to a $200 million donation”

The UCSB student paper did some great digging, and found out the creep hasn’t even written a check or signed a contract! The college chancellor signed off on a deal with a 99 year old without getting any guarantee what would happen if he kicks the bucket. But to be fair, he could live longer than the average 99 year old. Plenty of time to amend that will.

It gets even worse –he’s only vaguely promised 10% of the cost estimate, leaving the school on the hook for digging up another 90% if it stays in budget, and it’s already behind schedule.

And, there was already a plan in place for student housing that had been developed over years of studies, which involved such niceties as community and student input and, uh windows.

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