Former MIT Architecture Dean Bill Mitchell Dies at 65, Cemented Legacy with Campus Development

6/14/10

(Updated—6/15/10 at 8:35 am Eastern time) Bill Mitchell, an academic expert in urban design who helped oversee the $1 billion development project on MIT’s main campus in Kendall Square, died on June 11 after a long bout with cancer, according to MIT News. He was 65.

Mitchell, who joined the MIT faculty in 1992, was the former dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning and a professor at the MIT Media Lab. According to MIT News, he pioneered approaches of weaving together principles of design and technology to enable cities to limit the use of resources and better serve the needs of citizens. For example, MIT reports that he proposed the development of the “CityCar,” a lightweight, folding electric vehicle that people would share and store in convenient locations throughout their cities.

Mitchell’s legacy is literally cemented in Kendall Square. He served as architectural advisor to former MIT president Charles Vest for the $1 billion project that brought the school some of its landmark buildings, including the Stata Center (designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry) and the Media Lab Complex (the brainchild of the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki).

“[Mitchell's] guidance was essential in the transformation of our physical campus,” Vest told MIT News. “He was a wonderful friend and colleague who brightened MIT and respected and advanced the human experience of our faculty, students, and staff.”

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and chairman of the One Laptop per Child Foundation in Cambridge, MA, is the co-founder and former director of the MIT Media Lab who knew Mitchell for decades. Negroponte says he first met Mitchell at Yale University, where Mitchell was a student and Negroponte was a visiting faculty member.

“Bill’s understanding of architecture and of cities, provided a unique point of view on technology in general and computers in particular,” Negroponte said in an e-mail. “Frank Gehry would not have been Frank Gehry without him. Urban transport will under go the same kind of transformation because of Bill’s work.” (Editor’s note: The previous two paragraphs were added this morning to this story, which was initially published late yesterday afternoon.)

For more on Mitchell’s long list of contributions to MIT and the field of architecture, you can read his full obituary from MIT News. Here’s a link to some of Mitchell’s lecture on the MIT World website. Xconomy is seeking additional insights about Mitchell from his former MIT colleagues, and we hope to share those as we receive them. (Editor’s note: This paragraph was modified from its original version to include a link to Mitchell’s lectures.)

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