by: Dhanika Pineda
Photography by: Sahil Jagad
UCI welcomed a new addition to on-campus housing with the opening of the Middle Earth Towers at the beginning of Fall Quarter 2019. Located directly across the Social Science Plaza, the seven-story building with a glass exterior stands apart from its surrounding stone building neighbors. It holds two towers, connected on each floor by a row of common rooms for 480 residents.
The bottom floor of this building is home to Brandywine, the new dining hall meant to replace the previous dining hall of the same name that closed in 2017. Brandywine, like all parts of Middle Earth, pays tribute to “The Lord of the Rings.” It is specifically named after the Middle Earth river that divides the Shire from Buckland and Breeland.
Brandywine is one of two open dining halls on the UCI campus, the other being the Anteatery which is located across campus in Mesa Court. Previously, there was also a dining hall in Pippin Commons but it was closed, and when the area reopens in spring 2020, it is not expected to offer a dining option.
Though the Anteatery and Brandywine are similar in food choices, Brandywine offers themed dining in the style of “Lord of the Rings”, naming every food station after a meal time in the popular fiction series. Brandywine has also been known to play themed music, such as a whole day of Disney, K-Pop and more.
The second floor of the building contains a number of meeting rooms, followed by five consecutive floors of freshmen housing.
“I live in a triple in Laurelin Tower, and I enjoy the new Middle Earth Towers so much since we were easily able to get to know so many new people,” first-year Fernando Gonzalez said. “It’s also so convenient to have Brandywine downstairs.”
Each residential tower floor is connected by a large common area. These common areas include commodities for residents such as multiple study rooms, a fully furnished kitchen, sofas and a television, a laundry room and soundproof Skype rooms for students to use when video-chatting with their loved ones at home.
“Living in the Telperion Tower, I enjoy how spacious my room is and how many windows there are,” first-year Kaitlin Hwangbo said. “I also really like the study rooms and Skype rooms in every hall. Everything is so convenient, including the common room which has a large kitchen and TV area.”
Construction of this $130 million modern housing expansion began in June 2017. Incoming students of the 2019-2020 school year are the first to occupy and enjoy the new towers. The cost of living in the new towers is identical to that of the Mesa Court Towers, which were opened in Fall of 2016. The towers differ from classic halls in the fact that they feature no single rooms, and bathrooms are shared between two rooms rather than an entire floor. Depending on the meal plan students choose to accompany their cost of living, a double room in the towers may cost up to about $18,300, a triple may cost up to $16,000 and a quad may cost up to $14,100.
For prospective students who might consider the new towers as a living option in future school years, the application process is the same for all student housing, including the towers. After being admitted to UCI and submitting a statement of intent to register, students will receive a housing application in which they will fill out information such as room preferences, community preferences and hall preference. Here, students who wish to live in the towers should indicate so, keeping in mind that there is no guarantee of living arrangements.