A Billionaire Donated $200M To UC Santa Barbara On The Condition They Build An Absolutely Horrendous Dormitory… That He Personally Designed.

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11/03/2021 7:11 AM

Charles Munger earned fortune thanks to his position as the Vice Chairman of Warren Buffett's investment company, Berkshire Hathaway. Charlie is frequently described as Warren Buffett's "right hand man." They both grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and at one point they both worked at Warren's grandfather's grocery store as kids.

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Charlie started out in the legal world. After earning a law degree from Harvard, he moved to California where he was offered a job with a firm. He then founded his own law firm.

At some point in the 1950s when his father died, Charlie uprooted his family from California and moved them back to Omaha where he planned to take over his late father's law practice.

In 1959 Charlie reunited with Warren at a dinner party. They became nearly inseparable friends from that point on. In 1978, Charlie joined Warren at Berkshire Hathaway.

The rest is pretty much history and today Charlie Munger has a net worth of $2.2 billion.

Charlie Munger has a net worth of $2.2 billionCharlie Munger has a net worth of $2.2 billion
Charlie Munger Net Worth
(JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

Charlie has been extremely generous with his wealth. To date he has donated hundreds of millions to charity. He is especially passionate about donating to schools.

One of his most notable donations was first announced in March 2016. That's when Charlie revealed he planned to donate $200 million to the University of California at Santa Barbara. The gift was earmarked to construct a new undergraduate dormitory which would ultimately be called "The Munger Residence Hall."

But the donation came with a somewhat unusual catch: Charlie wanted to be able to design the building himself.

And as it turns out, there was another somewhat unusual catch: His design is absolutely horrendous.

Munger's design is so horrendous that it has led to UCSB's 15+ year veteran in-house architect to resign in protest.

Munger's ideas about student housing are somewhat radical, to say the least.

His design consists of an 11-story, 1.68-million-square-foot building in which 94% of the 4,500 student residents wouldn't even have a window in their small bedrooms. The idea behind the austere single-room living spaces is to encourage students to leave their rooms to "interact and collaborate" with one another in the building's common areas.

This exterior rendering, which was just submitted to the local design review board, is not as bad as you may have been expecting:

via University of California, Santa Barbara design review committee

On the other hand, this is what the interior of a typical dorm room would look like:

via University of California, Santa Barbara design review committee

No thanks.

In his resignation letter, architect Dennis McFadden called Munger's design "unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being."

The letter goes on:

"The design was described as 100% complete, approval was not requested, no vote was taken, and no further submittals are intended or required…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.

"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. 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."

McFadden made it very clear that that impact will be largely negative, hence his resignation. But it doesn't appear that his criticisms are going to stop construction of Munger Hall from moving forward. In a press statement, UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada said that "The Munger Hall project and design is continuing to move forward as planned."

You can see some additional renderings of the planned building and some student reactions in this local news clip: