A visiting scholar’s residence for the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics celebrated its grand opening Friday, debuting on El Colegio Road across from Tropicana Del Norte.
The newest building on UCSB turf will serve as a temporary living space for visiting scientists conducting research at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP), namely Ph.D. credentialed physicists.
Before the Towbes Group, Inc. began construction on the structure in October 2014, Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, donated $65 million to fund the project.
Munger met closely with renowned astrophysicist Lars Bildsten for over a year to discuss design plans on the multimillion dollar project. With Bildsten’s personal expertise at hand, Munger was able to determine which components visiting scholars would need to feel comfortable in the space and incorporate them into his vision for the property.
In addition to the 61 beds and seating the structure holds, the KITP residence has a basement laundry facility, a fitness room, three pianos, indoor bicycle and surfboard parking, a children’s playroom, entertainment rooms, a snooker room and a multipurpose room that Derek Hansen of The Towbes Group calls “a man-cave on steroids.”
“It’s bigger than most students’ first residence,” James Brill, resident manager of the KITP, said on a tour of the institute’s dorms. He added that housing forms are available for every scientist to request which features they need.
The three-story, Spanish-style structure has one-bedroom, two-bedroom and seven-bedroom units that are all completely furnished throughout the complex, matching housing to the physicist’s at-stay on a case-by-case basis.
While most upstairs units have showers in their corresponding bathrooms, downstairs living spaces have bathtubs to accommodate for families and young children.
“One of everything, down to the kitchen towels and the coffee machines in these rooms, has been tested before,” Brill said. “We did so to make sure the investment of each item was being used as wisely as possible.”
For the team of contractors behind the scenes, meeting the evacuation standard was a fundamental structural component. “The level of security here is one step below that of a hospital,” Hansen said.
In case of a fire, multiple staircase entryways and rooms are equipped with a Won-Door, a horizontal sliding door that preserves and insulates the space for up to two hours to allow for safe and protected emergency exiting.
A unique point of pride in the residence is the hall of flags that greets the guests as they enter the building. Visiting scientists each mount the flags of their countries onto the wall upon their arrival to the residence, creating an instant sense of national pride every time they enter.
The building includes a Penrose Diagram carved into the arm of the first-floor staircase, catering to its clientele in theoretical physics. There are also chalkboards in nearly every room.
“The most fun part of it all was the collaboration,” Hansen said. “The constant refinement for that perfect condition, certainly a lot of consideration went into that equation, no pun intended.”
A version of this story appeared on p. 5 of the Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 edition of the Daily Nexus.