The first thing that came to mind as I read your article on the proposed 4,500 person Megadorm at UCSB, was my own experience with the infamous Rossiya Hotel near Red Square in Moscow.

Completed in 1967, the Rossiya was the largest hotel in the world at that time, accommodating 4,000 guests. The rooms were small, the elevators worked only sporadically, and there were very few exits, a design intended by the Soviet authorities to make it difficult for guests to enter or exit unseen by the hotel staff, according to Wikipedia.

I was a tourist accompanying a UCSB alumni group. On February 25, 1977, about a week after we checked out, the wing of the Rossiya where we were staying caught fire. 42 people were killed and 50 injured. The paucity of exits was cited as a factor. I felt like we had dodged a bullet.

I would hope the University Fire Marshall would take a very hard look at a building housing 4,500 students — in interior spaces with no windows — that has only two exits. Everyone involved should also upgrade their liability insurance should they pursue this design.

Editor’s Note: The university has subsequently said the design has two main entrances/exits, but a total of 15 minor entrances/exits.


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