Bill Mitchell, the former dean of the MIT School of Architecture, author, and founder of the Smart Cities initiative died this past friday. Unlike some of the people at the Factory, I was not fortunate enough to know Bill or work with him at MIT. However, his passing does bring back memories of reading City of Bits when it was published during my last year of architecture school. That book, among others, played a part in my eventual move from architecture to software and interaction design. At the time, there was much breathless talk of the death of physicality and how we would all just "jack in." All architecture would be experienced purely through the visual cortex (etc. etc.) Mitchell took a slightly different tack in City of Bits. This book focused more on how physical architecture, from the building to urban scale, would be fundamentally altered by this new paradigm, not necessarily replaced by it. Much of what Mitchell wrote about in City of Bits was pretty spot on. Considering that it was written just as the Web as we know it was taking shape, much of the content, ranging from issues of personal privacy to the impact of technology on the nuclear family, does a pretty darn good job of describing our world today - for better or worse.
I leave you with some memories of Bill Mitchell from Factory veteran David Conant:The design community has lost a great thinker. One whose ideas provided foundations for the very work we are engaged in on a daily basis. Several of us on the Revit team were touched directly by Bill and his work as we started on the paths that lead us here. In the early day of Revit, we met with him several times to discuss the feasibility of our effort. He was most encouraging. As he moved on, he never lost that clarity that allowed him to be thinking 10 years ahead of the tools and paradigms used in practice. Bill’s passing will be a loss to all who are involved in the community of design.