William John Mitchell
(December 15, 1944 – June 11, 2010) was an Australian-born architect and urban designer, who played a major role in planning a major expansion project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mitchell was born on December 15, 1944, in Horsham, Victoria, Australia. He earned an undergraduate degree in 1967 from the University of Melbourne with a major in architecture and was awarded master's degrees from both Yale University (a Master of Environmental Design in environmental design in 1969) and the University of Cambridge (in 1977 with a major in architecture).
Mitchell headed the architecture and urban design program at the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles starting in 1970. He became a Professor of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1986 and was named as Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning in 1992. His 1977 book Computer-Aided Architectural Design
and his 1990 work The Logic of Architecture: Design, Computation and Cognition
were credited by The New York Times
as having "profoundly changed the way architects approached building design".
Starting in 2003, he created the Smart Cities program within of the MIT Media Lab. At MIT, Mitchell served as an advisor to MIT President Charles Marstiller Vest in guiding a decade-long, five-building expansion project at the university that included designs by Charles Correa, Frank Gehry, Steven Holl, Fumihiko Maki and Kevin Roche, and added one million square feet of classroom, office and other spaces to the MIT campus. The building project became the subject of his 2007 book Imagining M.I.T.
, which was written in a single weekend while he was at a Dublin hotel. At the dedication ceremonies for the Frank Gehry-designed Stata Center in 2004, Mitchell said that schools like MIT "carry a particular responsibility to conceive of architectural projects not just as the rational allocation of resources to achieve quantifiable management goals, but also as inventive, critical contributions to our evolving culture" and that anything less would be "a betrayal of their advertised principles.
Projects that Mitchell developed as part of the Smart Cities program included GreenWheel, a device that would add electric power to a bicycle; RoboScooter, a foldable electric scooter; and the MIT Car (also called the "CityCar", which would be propelled by motors built in to its wheels. The car and scooter projects were envisioned as being made available for public use at locations in cities, with access and scheduling controlled by computer. The MIT Car was designed to fold up into a more compact shape while parked.
Mitchell was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was awarded six honorary degrees.
A resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mitchell died due to complications of cancer at age 65 on June 11, 2010. He was survived by his second wife, Jane Wolfson and their son, as well as by a daughter from his first marriage, to Elizabeth Asmis.