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  • Written Jun 15, 2010 2:16pm

    Hello everyone - This is going to be my last posting.  

    Bill's wonderful students in the Smart Cities group have set up a visual tribute to Bill.  They want to invite everyone on the caringbridge list to contribute any memory or image that you would like.  The address is:


    Donations in his memory may be made to the Learning Prep School at 1507 Washington St., West Newton, MA 02465, where a technology fund will be established in his memory.

    One last thank you for the outpouring of love and support that we have received - it's made this difficult time easier for us and given us so many wonderful memories of Bill.

    Warm regards,
  • Written Jun 14, 2010 5:32pm

    Hello everyone,

    A number of people have been asking about the memorial service information - here it is:

    A memorial service will be held at MIT at the new Media Lab Complex, 75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA, on Wednesday, June 16 at 10 a.m. Private burial services will follow at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. 

    Donations in his memory may be made to the Learning Prep School at 1507 Washington St., West Newton, MA 02465, where a technology fund will be established in his memory. 

    Also, Bill's sister Mary wrote an extraordinary tribute to Bill that I wanted to post:

    For Bill

    Bill was born in Horsham, Victoria…”a lonely flyspeck on the absurdly empty map of the Australian interior” (his own words)…as was I, some three and a half years later. We moved from Horsham, to Warrnambool, a seaside town in Victoria’s south-west and then to Bendigo, originally a gold-mining town, in central Victoria. Our moves coincided with our father’s promotions within the Victorian Education Department and when Dad received his first appointment as Principal we moved to the “big smoke” (Melbourne) where we lived first in Coburg and later in Malvern. Our mother was also a teacher and she returned to her profession when we moved to live in Bendigo. From our earliest years therefore, we were involved in schools and teaching and learning.

    Our childhood was a happy and loving one. Our parents struggled financially in the early years but provided us with a loving home, plenty of fun, great holidays and every support any child could hope for. Much of our childhood and teenage years was shared by Sally, our beloved (and very silly) golden Cocker Spaniel dog. I am sure it was Sally who sparked Bill’s lifelong love of silly Cocker Spaniels…those who have known Elvis and Victor would not disagree!

    Bill was my brother, my friend, my mentor in so many ways. Some of my fondest memories are:

    • Being allowed to accompany Bill and his friends on their journeys into outer space, which they constructed under the tank stand in our Warrnambool backyard (entirely science fiction in the 1950s!)
    • Accompanying Bill and Sally on long treks across the sandhills and down mine shafts (though it was forbidden!) in Bendigo
    • Diving into a school yard fight to protect my “big brother” at Violet St primary School in Bendigo and ending up in tears because I was unsuccessful in “saving” him
    • Bill taking me to my first big exam in Melbourne to make sure I found my seat
    • Learning how to write a Fine Arts essay while we did the dishes together
    • His phone call from overseas at my wedding reception…he was a poor student in America at the time but he still managed to be with me.
    • His constant love of me and Mum and Dad and my husband and children across all of those years he has lived away from Australia and the joy of his many visits home
    • His intellect, his humour, his compassion, his enthusiasm, his humility
    • His ability to take his work seriously but not himself…he was always ready to look for the funny side of things and saw the ridiculous in many situations
    • His love of and loyalty to Jane, Billy, Emily, Seth and Liz
    • His continuing recognition and love of Australia…his birthplace

    I have witnessed his amazing academic journey and feel so proud of what he has achieved….especially as he has made his opportunities happen; he has never expected them to come to him. His achievements have been not only, nor even mainly, for his own gratification. They have been towards making life better, more beautiful, for everyone. He has sought and demanded excellence from all who have worked with him. He has earned their respect and started many on their own journeys of discovery.

    Our father died a long time ago in 1987 but he, and our mother, who is 91, my husband John and children Catherine and Louise and I will miss him enormously. We are glad, however, that his cruel suffering is over and he is at peace. Perhaps now he will recover ”the memory of a spreading, aromatic peppercorn tree, a corrugated iron roof that was too hot to touch when you climbed up to retrieve a ball, the sudden smell of raindrops in the dust, and a small, curious child –walking with his impossibly young and beautiful parents along a silent, sunburned street” (Placing Words..p212)

    Rest peacefully my brother

    Mary Close (June 2010)

  • Written Jun 12, 2010 11:30pm

    Dear friends,

    I wanted to pass along the tribute to Bill that MIT published tonight. Although it was impossible to highlight all of Bill's contributions - I thought they did a very nice job. Information for the Wednesday's memorial service is at the bottom of this message.  

    From MIT:

    William J. Mitchell, the former dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, who pioneered urban designs for networked, "smart" cities and helped oversee an ambitious building program that transformed MIT's physical campus, died on June 11 after a long battle with cancer. He was 65. 

    Mitchell was considered one of the world's leading urban theorists. Through the work of his Smart Cities research group at the MIT Media Lab, he pioneered new approaches to integrating design and technology to make cities more responsive to their citizens and more efficient in their use of resources. He likened tomorrow's cities to living organisms or very-large-scale robots, with nervous systems that enable them to sense changes in the needs of their inhabitants and external conditions, and respond to these needs. A major portion of this new urban infrastructure focused on revamping urban transportation as we know it, and included the development of the CityCar, a light-weight, electric, shared vehicle that folds and stacks like supermarket shopping carts at convenient locations and has all essential mechanical systems housed in the car's wheels. Other Smart City innovations include the folding electric RoboScooter, and GreenWheel, which turns an ordinary bicycle into an electric-assisted one. 

    Mitchell, who was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr. (1954) Professor of Architecture and Professor of Media Arts and Science, joined MIT in 1992 and over the next 18 years contributed handsomely to the Institute's intellectual life and campus spirit. As dean of architecture and planning, he championed the importance of the visual arts to MIT and concentrated on infusing new energy and visibility into the school by recruiting a number of innovative young faculty members. As a professor in the MIT Media Lab, Mitchell explored the new forms and functions of cities in the digital era, and suggested design and planning directions for the future. He was particularly interested in the relationship between real space, virtual space and human communities. 

    But it was as architectural advisor to then-President Charles M. Vest that Mitchell left what was arguably his most visible and lasting mark on the Institute's campus. In that role, Mitchell guided one of the most ambitious building programs in U.S. higher education, a metamorphosis that added nearly one million square feet to MIT's 154-acre campus. 

    "One of my greatest pleasures at MIT was to work with Bill in his role as architectural advisor to the president. His guidance was essential in the transformation of our physical campus," said Vest. "He was a wonderful friend and colleague who brightened MIT and respected and advanced the human experience of our faculty, students and staff." 

    Central to the $1 billion building program were five innovative architectural projects by world-renowned designers: Frank Gehry's Stata Center, Kevin Roche's Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, Steven Holl's Simmons Hall, Charles Correa's Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex and Fumihiko Maki's Media Lab Complex, which formally opened this spring. Mitchell attached a deep significance to the new buildings, which he said gave meaning to MIT's existence and represented its hopes and values. "Leading intellectual institutions, such as 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," he said at the dedication of the Stata Center in 2004. "Anything less is as scandalous a betrayal of their advertised principles as pedestrian scholarship or mediocre science." 

    Mitchell clearly relished the transformation of MIT's physical campus and his role in it, and it was not uncommon to see him leading community members and campus visitors on tours of the various construction sites. While each building was clearly unique, Mitchell wanted them all to be seen as part of a coherent landscape fabric; accordingly, he pushed for new "connective tissue" around campus — pedestrian routes, landscaping and commons facilities , for instance — to ensure that the whole be greater than the sum of its parts. "The fundamental idea is to weave everything together in a vibrant, residential community," Mitchell said in a 2001 campus talk. 

    Mitchell offered an insider's look at the conceptualization, design and construction of the five buildings in his 2007 book Imagining MIT (MIT Press), which he drafted in one long weekend at a Dublin hotel. "The behind-the-scenes story about how architecture gets done — a rarely told story, a hard-to-tell story — needed to be written," Mitchell said at the time. 

    'A pioneer of the future' 

    Born in 1944 and raised in rural Australia, Mitchell received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Melbourne, a Master of Environmental Design from Yale and a Master of Arts from Cambridge. He was a Fellow of both the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a recipient of six honorary doctorates. In 1997 he was awarded the annual Appreciation Prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan; he also chaired the National Academies Committee on Information Technology and Creativity. 

    Before coming to MIT, Mitchell was the G. Ware and Edythe M. Travelstead Professor of Architecture and director of the Master in Design Studies Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He also served as head of the Architecture/Urban Design Program at UCLA's Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning and taught at Yale, Carnegie-Mellon and Cambridge Universities. 

    Mitchell was a prolific author. In his most recent book, Reinventing the Automobile, co-authored with Christopher Borroni-Bird and Lawrence Burns (MIT Press, 2010), Mitchell reimagines the automobile for the 21st century, proposing that today's cars follow the same basic design principles as the Model T: they are well suited for conveying multiple passengers over long distances at high speeds, but inefficient for providing personal mobility within cities, where most of the world's people now live. 

    Other publications include World's Greatest Architect: Making, Meaning and Network Culture (2008); Placing Words: Symbols, Space, and the City (2005), Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City (2003); e-topia: Urban Life, Jim-But Not As We Know It(1999); High Technology and Low-Income Communities, with Donald A. Schön and Bish Sanyal (1999); City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn (1995); The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era (1992); The Logic of Architecture: Design, Computation, and Cognition (1990); and Computer-Aided Architectural Design(1977). He also served as chair of the Editorial Board at the MIT Press since 1994 and had been a member of the publisher's Management Board since 2000. 

    "Bill Mitchell was a very important thinker, truly a pioneer of the future," said Adèle Naudé Santos, current dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. "He played an extremely important role in research at the Media Lab, and because he was such a prolific writer, the significant advances he made will be with us for all time. Our community will be much diminished by his passing." 

    "Bill's highly unorthodox approach to re-thinking and re-framing daunting societal problems was the essence of his brilliance," said Frank Mo ss, director of the Media Lab. "It has significantly impacted my thinking about how one changes the world for the better." 

    Mitchell is survived by his wife, Jane Wolfson; a daughter, Emily and son-in-law, Seth Rooder of Brooklyn Heights, NY; a son, Billy of Cambridge; his mother, Joyce of Berwick, Australia; a sister, Mary Close and brother-in-law John Close of Kallista, Australia; his previous wife, Elizabeth Asmis of Chicago; and a loving extended family. 

    Donations in his memory may be made to the Learning Prep School at 1507 Washington St., West Newton, MA 02465, where a technology fund will be established in his memory. 

    A memorial service will be held at MIT at the new Media Lab Complex, 75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA, on Wednesday, June 16 at 10 a.m. Private burial services will follow at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. 

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