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Mitchell will have responsibility for the academic and research programs for media arts and sciences (MAS), including the leadership and operation of the Media Laboratory (which includes the new Center for Bits and Atoms) and MIT's involvement in the international affiliated Media Laboratories - Media Lab Europe, Media Lab Asia and others in the planning stage.
Mitchell said he's looking forward to the "big challenges ahead for MAS and the Media Labs, whose research focuses increasingly on the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, and which have a renewed emphasis, as well, on the arts and design."
Intimately linked with the research programs at the Media Labs, MAS offers graduate study leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. Stephen A. Benton, the Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, will serve as deputy director of MAS.
"We're at an important point culturally and institutionally. We're tremendously excited by the new research agendas that we've staked out and by our increased involvement with the developing world, and we want to continue to attract the very best, most creative people to work in the Labs' cross-disciplinary, atelier-style projects," Mitchell said.
Walter R. Bender will continue to direct the MIT Media Lab and will lead its day-to-day operations. Nicholas P. Negroponte, the Wiesner Professor of Media Technology, will serve as chair of the Media Laboratories and will play an active role in their strategic planning and initiatives.
"I'm extremely pleased that Bill Mitchell has agreed to take on this important leadership role for the Media Laboratories and for the Media Arts and Sciences Program," Provost Robert A. Brown said. "His creative leadership and desire for tight integration of education and research will build on the traditions set by Professor Negroponte and the founding faculty and staff of the laboratory and program."
One of Mitchell's objectives in his new role is to start construction of the Media Lab extension, a 197,000-square-foot building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki.
Mitchell is enthusiastic about Maki's design. "The building is gorgeous, absolutely wonderful. Maki does exquisite minimalist work," he said. The site for the new building has been cleared and the construction documents are finished, Mitchell noted.
Before coming to MIT in 1992, 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 previously served as head of the Architecture/Urban Design Program at UCLA's Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and he has also taught at Yale, Carnegie-Mellon and Cambridge University. In spring 1999 he was the University of Virginia's Thomas Jefferson Professor.
Mitchell holds degrees from the University of Melbourne in Australia, Yale and Cambridge. He is a fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 1997 he was awarded the annual Appreciation Prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 20, 2002.