SOM and Mithun selected to design new student dorms at UCSB

Officials from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) announced recently that SOM and Mithun have been selected to design new dormitories on a site at the corner of Mesa and Stadium Roads in San Benito County. The effort is part of a broader initiative to increase student housing across the campus by 2029.

The announcement marks the first student housing project on the campus in a decade as part of the University’s 2010 Long Range Development Plan. In total, SOM and Mithun are designing seven buildings for nearly 4,000 students on the northwest corner of the main UCSB campus.

“The design for San Benito extends education beyond the classroom to amplify UCSB’s learning ecosystem,” said SOM partner Olin McKenzie. “We envision a campus that is interconnected with the surrounding natural environment, based on radical inclusion, and fostering community at a variety of scales.”

An aerial rendering shows a slew of residential buildings ranging between six and eight stories that span the site from east to west. These buildings are angled and staggered to capture natural light, ocean breezes, and north views of the Goleta Slough and coastal range.

The tentative student dorms are to be built atop a two-story plinth containing amenity and support spaces. The podium is designed to stitch the multi-building complex together as a cohesive community, activate the surrounding environment, and connect to garden courtyards. The architects have also designed a central pedestrian promenade that slices through the buildings north to south, a gesture that unlocks views of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

“San Benito will provide critically needed affordable, apartment-style housing and an amenity-rich program with a healthy market at the heart—creating a vibrant residential community on a distinctive part of the UCSB campus,” added Mithun principal Damian Possidente. “Innovative living and learning environments combine with on-site student services to support the full range of student needs, from academics to social and emotional wellbeing.”

Architects from SOM and Mithun are targeting LEED Platinum certification, and hope to leverage Santa Barbara’s mild climate to provide passive ventilation strategies for the majority of building systems. The project itself is split into two phases. By fall 2027, UCSB administrators hope to have have 2,140 new much-needed beds.

Moving forward, the architects are engaging with students, staff, administration, and faculty. Planning and design on phase two, building residential buildings on the southeast end of the campus, should start this summer. The design team seeks to gain approval from the UC Board of Regents in May 2024, and begin construction in 2025.

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