Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Mithun to expand on-campus housing for nearly 4,000 students at University of California, Santa Barbara

Date Posted: 03.22.2024

Press Release

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) has selected Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in association with Mithun to oversee the design and construction of seven new student housing buildings on the northwest corner of the main UCSB campus. The first in a two-phase effort to substantially increase the number of student beds on campus by 2029, the San Benito student housing project will provide 2,140 much-needed beds by Fall 2027. When complete, it will be the first student housing project on the campus in a decade.

“We are delighted to work with SOM and Mithun on this student housing project. This critical project will help address the university’s goal of providing on-campus housing for 50 percent of our students,” said UCSB Building Committee Co-Chair Gene Lucas. “We have enjoyed developing a very collaborative relationship with this architectural team. We have been impressed with their understanding and ability to address the special nature of UC Santa Barbara, its goals, its opportunities, and the unique environment in which our students live and study.”

The San Benito project creates a new vibrant hub for student life in a corner of the campus that has historically been home to sports, recreation, and the university’s facilities management complex. Navigating a site constrained by two seismic fault lines, the protected habitat of the adjacent Goleta Slough, and a complex topography, San Benito introduces a new residential community with improved campus connections and inclusive shared spaces, indoor and out.

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

Four rows of 6-to-8-story residential buildings will span the site from east to west, angled and staggered to capture natural light, ocean breezes, and north views of the Goleta Slough and coastal range. The buildings are set atop a two-story plinth of amenity and support spaces that knit the multi-building complex together as a neighborhood, activate the surrounding campus, and connect to garden courtyards. A central pedestrian promenade slices through the buildings north-to-south at the campus level, creating a welcoming series of outdoor gathering spaces with 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,” said 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.”

The high performance design is targeting LEED Platinum certification and will leverage Santa Barbara’s mild climate to provide passive ventilation for the majority of the building systems. The complex, located at the corner of Mesa and Stadium Roads, will provide students with panoramic northward views of the coastal plain.

UCSB, SOM, and Mithun are in ongoing conversations with key stakeholders, including students, staff, administration and faculty. Once the initial planning and concept design phase is finished, the campus will seek project approval by the UC Board of Regents in May 2024 to expedite the final design and construction phase. Construction is expected to begin in 2025. Planning and design for phase two of the project — student residence halls on the southeast end of campus also designed by SOM and Mithun — is expected to begin this summer. Both phases are aimed at fulfilling the goals of the University’s 2010 Long Range Development Plan.

About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is a global practice of architects, designers, engineers, and planners, responsible for some of the world’s most technically and environmentally advanced buildings and significant public spaces. From a strategic regional plan to a single piece of furniture, SOM’s designs anticipate change in the way we live, work and communicate, and have brought lasting value to communities around the world. The firm’s approach is highly collaborative, and its interdisciplinary team is engaged in a wide range of international projects, with creative studios based across the globe. SOM is a carbon neutral business.

About Mithun
Mithun is an integrated design firm dedicated to creating positive change in people’s lives. A national practice with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, the firm is a leader in the creation of vibrant student life and residential communities totaling more than 26,000 beds on 26 campuses to date. Mithun is internationally recognized for excellence in design and sustainability; honors include the 2023 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architecture Firm Award and eight AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Awards. Mithun’s team of architects, landscape architects, interior designers, urban designers and planners work in a wide range of typologies and scales, with a focus on urban environments and places where people live, work and learn.

About UCSB
The University of California, Santa Barbara is a top-ranked research institution that also provides a comprehensive liberal arts learning experience. UC Santa Barbara’s academic community of faculty, students, and staff is characterized by a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration that is responsive to the needs of our multicultural and global society. All of this takes place within a living and learning environment like no other, drawing inspiration from the beauty and resources of our extraordinary location at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.