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Mitchell Named Dean Of Architecture And PlanningProvost Mark S. Wrighton has announced the selection of Professor William J. Mitchell, director of the Master in Design Studies Program at Harvard University, as the next dean of the School of Architecture and Planning starting July 1.
"We are most fortunate to have an individual of Professor Mitchell's experience and stature to lead the School of Architecture and Planning," Professor Wrighton said in a letter to the faculty. "Professor Mitchell possesses an outstanding combination of scholarly interests, leadership experience, and professional practice which is particularly well suited to the School at this time."
The provost said Professor Mitchell's selection followed an international search in which a faculty advisory committee headed by Professor Bernard J. Frieden had made a "careful assessment not only of the candidates' qualifications but of the needs and desires of the faculty and students in the School."
Professor Mitchell succeeds Dean John de Monchaux, who announced his intention a year ago to step down in January but later agreed to remain until a successor was chosen. Dean de Monchaux, who will have served as dean for almost 11 years, will remain at MIT as a professor in the Departments of Architecture and Urban Studies and Planning.
Commenting on his new position, Professor Mitchell said: "Designers, planners and media technologists currently face some extraordinary challenges. Architects are both searching for new intellectual direction and facing economic conditions and technological developments that make traditional patterns of practice increasingly difficult to maintain. The problems of our cities are deeply rooted and affect us all in immediate, very personal ways: I was shaken, a few weeks ago, when the familiar neighborhood stores around my apartment in Los Angeles were looted and burned.
"And we must come to grips with the technical, social and cultural issues raised by the explosive development of electronic media and computer and communications infrastructures-our growing inhabitation not only of physical space, but also of cyberspace. We need not just good intentions, but good ideas. I want the School of Architecture and Planning to be a focus of innovation and critical debate about the issues that confront us, and I want to direct our efforts towards educating a generation of students who will really make a difference."
Professor Mitchell, like Dean de Monchaux, came to this country from Australia, where he was born in 1944. He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Melbourne, a Master of Environmental Design degree from Yale University and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge, and is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
Prior to his association with the Graduate School of Design at Harvard in 1986-where he now holds the G. Ware and Edythe M. Travelstead Professorship in Architecture-he was on the faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was head of the Architecture/Urban Design Program from 1980 to 1986. He also has been a visiting professor or scholar at a number of universities including Cambridge, Carnegie-Mellon and the University of California at Berkeley.
His scholarly interests include design theory, computer-aided architectural and urban design, and electronic media, and he has been active as a researcher and practitioner in these areas. He has consulted extensively, served as president of The Urban Innovations Group, Los Angeles, and co-founded a California software company.
His books include The Logic of Architecture (MIT Press, 1990), The Poetics of Gardens with Charles W. Moore and William Turnbull Jr. (MIT Press, 1988), Digital Design Media with Malcolm McCullough (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1991), and the pioneering text Computer-Aided Architectural Design (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977). His latest book, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, will be published by MIT Press in the fall.
Professor Mitchell and his wife, Elizabeth Asmis, maintain residences both in Cambridge and in Chicago, where she is a professor of classics at the University of Chicago. They have a daughter, Emily, 13.
A version of this article appeared in the June 17, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 34).