In a letter to the UC Santa Barbara Design Review Committee co-chairs for Munger Hall, architectural consultant Dennis McFadden resigned in protest of the construction of the housing development on Oct. 24.
The letter — which voiced strong opposition to the planned 11-story dorm building that will hold 4,500 students and open in fall 2025 — was published on Reddit on Oct. 26 following the Oct. 5 Design Review Committee (DRC) meeting.
“I was disturbed by both the process and the content of the Munger Hall design presentation,” McFadden wrote in his letter of resignation. “The basic concept of Munger Hall as a place for students to live is unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent and a human being.”
McFadden’s main concern over the construction of Munger Hall was the complete lack of access to the outside from inside the building, with the eight-person living units being completely “sealed environments with no exterior windows” and completely dependent on artificial lighting and mechanical ventilation.
The DRC reviewed the details on the construction of Munger Hall. During the meeting, Navy Banvard, the architect for Munger Hall, said that the bedroom units will have “virtual windows that simulate daylight.”
“An ample body of documented evidence shows that interior environments with access to natural light, air and views to nature improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of occupants,” McFadden wrote in the letter. “The Munger Hall design ignores this evidence and seems to take the position that it doesn’t matter.”
McFadden said in his letter of resignation that the design for the building is “100% complete,” despite DRC allowing requests to speak on the construction during the Oct. 5 meeting.
“The design was described as 100% complete, approval was not requested, no vote was taken and no further submittals are intended or required,” he wrote. “Yet in the nearly fifteen years I served as a consulting architect to the DRC, no project was brought before the committee that is larger, more transformational and potentially more destructive to the campus as a place than Munger Hall.”
Another issue McFadden noted in his letter was the “unprecedented size and density” of the building, with its single-block design being built to hold 4,500 students with two entrances.
“The project is essentially the student life portion of a mid-sized university campus in a box,” he wrote. “No research or data was presented to justify the extreme density or to understand its impact. UCSB students, as the subject of the experiment, will be left to negotiate the unintended consequences.”
UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada said in the statement to the Nexus that Munger Hall is a part of UCSB’s current housing projects guided by the Campus Plan — a strategy developed through an “extensive campus participatory process” with the goal of providing “affordable, on-campus housing that minimizes energy consumption and reduces the number of students living in the neighboring community of Isla Vista.”
“We are grateful for Mr. McFadden’s contributions and insights during his tenure as a consultant on our design review committee,” said Estrada.
However, his resignation will not stop the construction of Munger Hall, according to Estrada.
“The Munger Hall project and design is continuing to move forward as planned,” she said in the statement. “We are delighted to be moving forward with this transformational project.”
But McFadden stands by the drawbacks of the building outweighing its benefits.
“As a project that pushes economies of scale, prefabrication and an alternate project delivery process, Munger Hall offers an answer to the question of how to resolve the housing shortage and growth pressures currently facing the University,” McFadden wrote in his letter of resignation.
“As a design solution and a campus building, however, the project will long outlive the circumstances of its origin and will impact the life of the campus and the lives of its students for multiple generations.”
“This experiment, I believe, is the wrong answer for student housing, the UCSB campus and the UCSB community.”