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. This is the origin of Hiriko, the city car that will be fabricated in the Basque region