Architecture & Real Estate | November 7, 2021 4:16 pm

Charlie Munger Unfazed by Windowless Dorm Criticism

Can one design a perfect dormitory?

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger
Warren Buffett (L), CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and vice chairman Charlie Munger attend the 2019 annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, May 3, 2019.

When Charlie Munger’s name comes up in conversation, it’s usually related to his work with Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway. It’s led to him making over a billion dollars over the course of his life, and made him an authority for many on investment strategies and corporate behavior. Lately, though, Munger has been in the news for something very different — a dormitory he designed for the University of California, Santa Barbara. Notably, it has to do with the fact that most students’ rooms would not have windows — instead making use of lights that simulate natural lighting.

The dorm design has been widely criticized — and led one architect, Dennis McFadden, to resign from U.C.S.B.’s design review committee — but so far, Munger has stood by his design. In an interview with Architectural Record, Munger cited Marseille’s Unité d’Habitation, designed by Le Corbusier, as a primary inspiration for the dorm.

“We took Corbusier’s errors and the errors in university housing and eliminated them one by one,” Munger said. Munger was also critical of McFadden’s reaction to the design, saying, “He didn’t look at the building intelligently.”

Among the points he made in his defense was that the dorm design allows for every student to have a private bedroom. “We had a window shortage,” he explained. “So we just copied what Disney Cruises did. The way Disney does it, the window is really a television set.”

This isn’t the first time Munger has designed a dormitory along these lines. He also designed a facility for the University of Michigan that operated under similar principles — windowless bedrooms and lots of common spaces for students to work. Earlier this week, CNN spoke with people who have lived there and offered a range of opinions. Some enjoyed the common areas; another interviewee was frustrated by the ventilation system. Then again, there’s likely never going be a dormitory that’s perfect for everyone.