William J. Mitchell

William J. Mitchell was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences and directed the Smart Cities research group at MIT's Media Lab.

  • Reinventing the Automobile

    Reinventing the Automobile

    Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century

    William J. Mitchell, Bruce E. Hainley, and Lawrence D. Burns

    How to leave behind our unwieldy, gas-guzzling, carbon dioxide–emitting vehicles for cars that are green, smart, connected, and fun.

    This book provides a long-overdue vision for a new automobile era. The cars we drive today follow the same underlying design principles as the Model Ts of a hundred years ago and the tail-finned sedans of fifty years ago. In the twenty-first century, cars are still made for twentieth-century purposes. They are inefficient for providing personal mobility within cities—where most of the world's people now live. In this pathbreaking book, William Mitchell and two industry experts reimagine the automobile, describing vehicles of the near future that are green, smart, connected, and fun to drive. They roll out four big ideas that will make this both feasible and timely.

    The fundamental reinvention of the automobile won't be easy, but it is an urgent necessity—to make urban mobility more convenient and sustainable, to make cities more livable, and to help bring the automobile industry out of crisis.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £19.95
    • Paperback $22.95 £17.99
  • World's Greatest Architect

    World's Greatest Architect

    Making, Meaning, and Network Culture

    William J. Mitchell

    Function and meaning in architecture and elsewhere, from tongue-in-cheek instructions for creating a surveillance state to reflections on the architecture of the potato chip.World's Greatest Architect: Making, Meaning, and Network Culture

    Artifacts (including works of architecture) play dual roles; they simultaneously perform functions and carry meaning. Columns support roofs, but while the sturdy Tuscan and Doric types traditionally signify masculinity, the slim and elegant Ionic and Corinthian kinds read as feminine. Words are often inscribed on objects. (On a door: “push” or “pull.”) Today, information is digitally encoded (dematerialized) and displayed (rematerialized) to become part of many different objects, at one moment appearing on a laptop screen and at another, perhaps, on a building facade (as in Times Square). Well-designed artifacts succeed in being both useful and meaningful. In World's Greatest Architect, William Mitchell offers a series of snapshots—short essays and analyses—that examine the systems of function and meaning currently operating in our buildings, cities, and global networks.

    In his writing, Mitchell makes connections that aren't necessarily obvious but are always illuminating, moving in one essay from Bush-Cheney's abuse of language to Robert Venturi's argument against rigid ideology and in favor of graceful pragmatism. He traces the evolution of Las Vegas from Sin/Sign City to family-friendly resort and residential real estate boomtown. A purchase of chips leads not only to a complementary purchase of beer but to thoughts of Eames chairs (like Pringles) and Gehry (fun to imitate with tortilla chips in refried beans). As for who the world's greatest architect might be, here's a hint: he's also the oldest.

    • Paperback $4.75 £3.99
  • Imagining MIT

    Imagining MIT

    Designing a Campus for the Twenty-First Century

    William J. Mitchell

    The story of the decade long, billion-dollar building boom at MIT and how it produced major works of architecture by Charles Correa, Frank Gehry, Steven Holl, Fumihiko Maki, and Kevin Roche.

    In the 1990s, MIT began a billion-dollar building program that transformed its outdated, run-down campus into an architectural showplace. Funded by the high-tech boom of the 1990s and and driven by a pent-up demand for new space, MIT's ambitious rebuilding produced five major works of architecture: Kevin Roche's Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, Steven Holl's Simmons Hall, Frank Gehry's Stata Center, Charles Correa's Brain and Cognitive Science Complex, and Fumihiko Maki's still-unrealized project for the Media Laboratory. In Imagining MIT, William Mitchell (who served as architectural adviser to MIT president Charles Vest) offers a critical, behind-the-scenes view of MIT's new buildings and the complex processes that produced them. The story is not simply one of commissions, projects, CAD, and hardhats; it is about all the forces that come into play—including money, politics, institutional dynamics, and ideology—when a major university campus is imagined, designed, and built. Lavishly illustrated with architectural photographs, drawings, plans, and models, with color images throughout, Imagining MIT shows both the opportunities and the obstacles facing architectural production and city building at the dawn of a new millennium.

    Mitchell challenges and subverts the standard form of architectural narrative—the mythic tale of heroic designers and enlightened patrons who overcome adversity to realize their visions. Instead, he offers a Rashomon-like construction of multiple voices and viewpoints. He sets the scene by recounting the history of MIT campus architecture, from its early synthesis of classicism and pragmatism to the daring mid-twentieth-century modernism of Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen. The descriptions and illustrations of the new projects show not only the evolution of each building, but the relationship of the techniques of architectural representation—themselves evolving, from sketching and modeling to three-dimensional computer modeling and rendering—to the conception and development of architectural ideas.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £22.00
    • Paperback $17.95 £13.99
  • Placing Words

    Placing Words

    Symbols, Space, and the City

    William J. Mitchell

    Reflections on architecture and the exchange of information in the spaces and places of the city, from the necessity of skyscrapers in an age of Web sites to cities as talent magnets, from architectural bling to the neo-minimalism of the new MoMA.

    The meaning of a message, says William Mitchell, depends on the context of its reception. "Shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater produces a dramatically different effect from barking the same word to a squad of soldiers with guns," he observes. In Placing Words, Mitchell looks at the ways in which urban spaces and places provide settings for communication and at how they conduct complex flows of information through the twenty-first century city.

    Cities participate in the production of meaning by providing places populated with objects for words to refer to. Inscriptions on these objects (labels, billboards, newspapers, graffiti) provide another layer of meaning. And today, the flow of digital information—from one device to another in the urban scene—creates a digital network that also exists in physical space. Placing Words examines this emerging system of spaces, flows, and practices in a series of short essays—snapshots of the city in the twenty-first century.

    Mitchell questions the necessity of flashy downtown office towers in an age of corporate Web sites. He casts the shocked-and-awed Baghdad as a contemporary Guernica. He describes architectural makeovers throughout history, listing Le Corbusier's Fab Five Points of difference between new and old architecture, and he discusses the architecture of Manolo Blahniks. He pens an open letter to the Secretary of Defense recommending architectural features to include in torture chambers. He compares Baudelaire, the Parisian flaneur, to Spiderman, the Manhattan traceur. He describes the iPod-like galleries of the renovated MoMA and he recognizes the camera phone as the latest step in a process of image mobilization that began when artists stopped painting on walls and began making pictures on small pieces of wood, canvas, or paper. The endless flow of information, he makes clear, is not only more pervasive and efficient than ever, it is also generating new cultural complexities.

    • Paperback $22.95 £17.99
  • Me++

    Me++

    The Cyborg Self and the Networked City

    William J. Mitchell

    How the transformation of wireless technology and the creation of an interconnected world are changing our environment and our lives.

    With Me++ the author of City of Bits and e-topia completes an informal trilogy examining the ramifications of information technology in everyday life. William Mitchell describes the transformation of wireless technology in the hundred years since Marconi—the scaling up of networks and the scaling down of the apparatus for transmission and reception. It is, he says, as if "Brobdingnag had been rebooted as Lilliput"; Marconi's massive mechanism of tower and kerosene engine has been replaced by a palm-size cellphone. If the operators of Marconi's invention can be seen as human appendages to an immobile machine, today's hand-held devices can be seen as extensions of the human body. This transformation has, in turn, changed our relationship with our surroundings and with each other. The cellphone calls from the collapsing World Trade Center towers and the hijacked jets on September 11 were testimony to the intensity of this new state of continuous electronic engagement.

    Thus, Mitchell proposes, the "trial separation" of bits (the elementary unit of information) and atoms (the elementary unit of matter) is over. With increasing frequency, events in physical space reflect events in cyberspace, and vice versa; digital information can, for example, direct the movement of an aircraft or a robot arm. In Me++ Mitchell examines the effects of wireless linkage, global interconnection, miniaturization, and portability on our bodies, our clothing, our architecture, our cities, and our uses of space and time. Computer viruses, cascading power outages, terrorist infiltration of transportation networks, and cellphone conversations in the streets are symptoms of a dramatic new urban condition—that of ubiquitous, inescapable network interconnectivity. He argues that a world governed less and less by boundaries and more and more by connections requires us to reimagine and reconstruct our environment and to reconsider the ethical foundations of design, engineering, and planning practice.

    • Hardcover $7.75 £6.99
    • Paperback $22.95 £17.99
  • e-topia

    e-topia

    "Urban Life, Jim—But Not As We Know It"

    William J. Mitchell

    How an electronically connected world will shape cities and urban relationships of the future.

    The global digital network is not just a delivery system for email, Web pages, and digital television. It is a whole new urban infrastructure—one that will change the forms of our cities as dramatically as railroads, highways, electric power supply, and telephone networks did in the past. In this lucid, invigorating book, William J. Mitchell examines this new infrastructure and its implications for our future daily lives.

    Picking up where his best-selling City of Bits left off, Mitchell argues that we must extend the definitions of architecture and urban design to encompass virtual places as well as physical ones, and interconnection by means of telecommunication links as well as by pedestrian circulation and mechanized transportation systems. He proposes strategies for the creation of cities that not only will be sustainable but will make economic, social, and cultural sense in an electronically interconnected and global world. The new settlement patterns of the twenty-first century will be characterized by live/work dwellings, 24-hour pedestrian-scale neighborhoods rich in social relationships, and vigorous local community life, complemented by far-flung configurations of electronic meeting places and decentralized production, marketing, and distribution systems. Neither digiphile nor digiphobe, Mitchell advocates the creation of e-topias—cities that work smarter, not harder.

    • Hardcover $45.00 £31.95
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.99
  • High Technology and Low-Income Communities

    High Technology and Low-Income Communities

    Prospects for the Positive Use of Advanced Information Technology

    Donald A. Schön, Bishwapriya Sanyal, and William J. Mitchell

    How will low-income communities be affected by the waves of social, economic, political, and cultural change that surround the new information technologies? How can we influence the outcome? This action-oriented book identifies the key issues, explores the evidence, and suggests some answers. Avoiding both utopianism and despair, the book presents the voices of technology enthusiasts and skeptics, as well as social activists. The book is organized into three parts. Part I examines the issues in their socio-technical, economic, and historical contexts. Part II—the core of the book—proposes five initiatives for using computers and electronic communications to benefit low-income urban communities:- to provide access to the new technologies in ways that enable low-income people to become active producers rather than passive users;- to use the new technologies to improve the dialogue between public agencies and low-income neighborhoods;- to help low-income youth to exploit the entrepreneurial potential of information technologies;- to develop approaches to education that take advantage of the educational capabilities of the computer;- to promote the community computer: applications of computers and communications technology that foster community development. Part III presents a synthesis of the various topics. Its main questions are, What are the prospects and problems of initiatives to enable the poor to benefit from the new technologies? and What federal, state, and municipal policies would enhance the prospects for success?

    Contributors Alice Amsden, Jeanne Bamberger, Anne Beamish, Manuel Castells, Joseph Ferreira, Peter Hall, Leo Marx, William J. Mitchell, Mitchel Resnick, Bish Sanyal, Donald A. Schön, Alan and Michelle Shaw, Michael Shiffer, Bruno Tardieu, Sherry Turkle, Julian Wolpert

    • Paperback $8.75 £7.95
  • City of Bits

    City of Bits

    Space, Place, and the Infobahn

    William J. Mitchell

    Entertaining, concise, and relentlessly probing, City of Bits is a comprehensive introduction to a new type of city, an increasingly important system of virtual spaces interconnected by the information superhighway. William Mitchell makes extensive use of practical examples and illustrations in a technically well-grounded yet accessible examination of architecture and urbanism in the context of the digital telecommunications revolution, the ongoing miniaturization of electronics, the commodification of bits, and the growing domination of software over materialized form.

    • Hardcover $22.50
    • Paperback $27.00 £21.00
  • The Reconfigured Eye

    The Reconfigured Eye

    Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era

    William J. Mitchell

    Continuing William Mitchell's investigations of how we understand, reason about, and use images, The Reconfigured Eye provides the first systematic, critical analysis of the digital imaging revolution.

    "An intelligent and readable approach to the digitization of images.... A useful overview of a critical subject."—New York Times Book Review

    Enhanced? Or faked? Today the very idea of photographic veracity is being radically challenged by the emerging technology of digital image manipulation and synthesis: photographs can now be altered at will in ways that are virtually undetectable, and photorealistic synthesized images are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from actual photographs. Continuing William Mitchell's investigations of how we understand, reason about, and use images, The Reconfigured Eye provides the first systematic, critical analysis of the digital imaging revolution. It describes the technology of the digital image in detail and looks closely at how it is changing the way we explore ideas, at its aesthetic potential, and at the ethical questions it raises.

    • Hardcover $45.00 £34.95
    • Paperback $45.00 £35.00
  • The Electronic Design Studio

    The Electronic Design Studio

    Architectural Education in the Computer Era

    Malcolm McCullough, William J. Mitchell, and Patrick Purcell

    In four parts this book frames those issues and provides a diversity of perspectives on them.

    For centuries architects have carried out shape computations by hand, using informal procedures and the simplest of tools. Over the last two decades, however, they have made increasing use of more formal procedures executed by computers, a development that raises challenging questions of architectural theory and perplexing issues for those concerned with the future of architectural education. In four parts - theoretical foundations, electronic media in the design studio, information delivery systems for design, and knowledge based design systems - this book frames those issues and provides a diversity of perspectives on them. The Electronic Design Studio contains over thirty extensively illustrated contributions that discuss the experiences of universities in the United States, Europe, Japan, Israel, Canada, and Australia with computer-aided architectural (CAAD) design, articulate current theoretical and practical concerns, provide criticism of media and methods, and suggest directions for the future. Architectural educators and architects concerned with the effect of computer technology on the design process will find this book an indispensable reference. As a current review of the state of the art of CAAD and an overview of the major issues, this is the most comprehensive source available.

    • Hardcover $90.00 £62.95
  • The Logic of Architecture

    The Logic of Architecture

    Design, Computation, and Cognition

    William J. Mitchell

    The Logic of Architecture is the first comprehensive, systematic, and modern treatment of the logical foundations of design thinking. It provides a detailed discussion of languages of architectural form, their specification by means of formal grammars, their interpretation, and their role in structuring design thinking. Supplemented by more than 200 original illustrations, The Logic of Architecture reexamines central issues of design theory in the light of recent advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and the theory of computation. The richness of this approach permits sympathetic and constructive analysis of positions developed by a wide range of theorists and philosophers from Socrates to the present. Mitchell first considers how buildings may be described in words and shows how such descriptions may be formalized by the notation of first order predicate calculus. This leads to the idea of a critical language for speaking about the qualities of buildings. Turning to the question of representation by drawings and scale models, Mitchell then develops the notion of design worlds that provide graphic tokens which can be manipulated according to certain grammatical rules. In particular, he shows how domains of graphic compositions possible in a design world may be specified by formal shape grammars. Design worlds and critical languages are connected by showing how such languages may be interpreted in design worlds. Design processes are then viewed as computations in a design world with the objective of satisfying predicates of form and function stated in a critical language.

    • Hardcover $40.00
    • Paperback $35.00 £27.00
  • The Poetics of Gardens

    The Poetics of Gardens

    William J. Mitchell, William Turnbull, Jr., and Charles W. Moore

    This is an entirely different garden book: a pattern book in which a score of landscapes and gardens are drawn, described, and analyzed not just as a bouquet of pleasures but as sources, lodes to be mined for materials, shapes and relationships, and ideas for transforming our own backyards.

    There is a universality about the creation of gardens across time and in diverse cultures that has inspired this entirely different garden book: a playful and affectionate typology of gardens; a pattern book in which a score of landscapes and gardens are drawn, described, and analyzed not just as a bouquet of pleasures but as sources, lodes to be mined for materials, shapes and relationships, and ideas for transforming our own backyards.

    The Poetics of Gardens is a celebration of places and the gardens they can become. Most of the 500 sketches, axonometric drawings, and photographs were created especially for this book. They explore the special qualities of places and the acts that can transform them into gardens.

    The authors discuss the qualities that create the promise of a garden the shapes of land and water, the established plants, the light and wind, the climate and show how these can be organized to give a place a special meaning. And they pay particular attention to the "rituals of habitation" by which we imaginatively take possession of places on the surface of the earth.

    The Poetics of Gardens examines great gardens made in other places, with other climates, at other times from ancient Rome to modem England, from Ball to Botany Bay, from the court of Ch'ien Lung to the magic kingdom of Walt Disney to explore their devices and record their images, scents, and sounds. The authors discuss the adaptation of the great garden traditions of the past to North American soil and call together the creators of these gardens to speculate about how their patterns and ideas can be appropriated, transformed, and composed into places that come alive for us.

    • Hardcover $80.00 £59.95
    • Paperback $45.00 £35.00

Contributor

  • Evocative Objects

    Evocative Objects

    Things We Think With

    Sherry Turkle

    Autobiographical essays, framed by two interpretive essays by the editor, describe the power of an object to evoke emotion and provoke thought: reflections on a cello, a laptop computer, a 1964 Ford Falcon, an apple, a mummy in a museum, and other "things-to-think-with."

    For Sherry Turkle, "We think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with." In Evocative Objects, Turkle collects writings by scientists, humanists, artists, and designers that trace the power of everyday things. These essays reveal objects as emotional and intellectual companions that anchor memory, sustain relationships, and provoke new ideas.These days, scholars show new interest in the importance of the concrete. This volume's special contribution is its focus on everyday riches: the simplest of objects—an apple, a datebook, a laptop computer—are shown to bring philosophy down to earth. The poet contends, "No ideas but in things." The notion of evocative objects goes further: objects carry both ideas and passions. In our relations to things, thought and feeling are inseparable.

    Whether it's a student's beloved 1964 Ford Falcon (left behind for a station wagon and motherhood), or a cello that inspires a meditation on fatherhood, the intimate objects in this collection are used to reflect on larger themes—the role of objects in design and play, discipline and desire, history and exchange, mourning and memory, transition and passage, meditation and new vision.In the interest of enriching these connections, Turkle pairs each autobiographical essay with a text from philosophy, history, literature, or theory, creating juxtapositions at once playful and profound. So we have Howard Gardner's keyboards and Lev Vygotsky's hobbyhorses; William Mitchell's Melbourne train and Roland Barthes' pleasures of text; Joseph Cevetello's glucometer and Donna Haraway's cyborgs. Each essay is framed by images that are themselves evocative. Essays by Turkle begin and end the collection, inviting us to look more closely at the everyday objects of our lives, the familiar objects that drive our routines, hold our affections, and open out our world in unexpected ways.

    • Hardcover $28.95 £21.95
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.99
  • Sensorium

    Sensorium

    Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art

    Caroline A. Jones

    Artists and writers reconsider the relationship between the body and electronic technology in the twenty-first century through essays, artworks, and an encyclopedic "Abecedarius of the New Sensorium."

    The relationship between the body and electronic technology, extensively theorized through the 1980s and 1990s, has reached a new technosensual comfort zone in the early twenty-first century. In Sensorium, contemporary artists and writers explore the implications of the techno-human interface. Ten artists, chosen by an international team of curators, offer their own edgy investigations of embodied technology and the technologized body. These range from Matthieu Briand's experiment in "controlled schizophrenia" and Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller's uneasy psychological soundscapes to Bruce Nauman's uncanny night visions and François Roche's destabilized architecture. The art in Sensorium—which accompanies an exhibition at the MIT List Visual Arts Center—captures the aesthetic attitude of this hybrid moment, when modernist segmentation of the senses is giving way to dramatic multisensory mixes or transpositions. Artwork by each artist appears with an analytical essay by a curator, all of it prefaced by an anchoring essay on "The Mediated Sensorium" by Caroline Jones. In the second half of Sensorium, scholars, scientists, and writers contribute entries to an "Abecedarius of the New Sensorium." These short, playful pieces include Bruno Latour on "Air," Barbara Maria Stafford on "Hedonics," Michel Foucault (from a little-known 1966 radio lecture) on the "Utopian Body," Donna Haraway on "Compoundings," and Neal Stephenson on the "Viral." Sensorium is both forensic and diagnostic, viewing the culture of the technologized body from the inside, by means of contemporary artists' provocations, and from a distance, in essays that situate it historically and intellectually. Copublished with The MIT List Visual Arts Center.

    • Hardcover $46.95 £37.00
  • Architecture's New Media

    Architecture's New Media

    Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design

    Yehuda E. Kalay

    A comprehensive examination of computer-aided architectural design and its potential effect on architectural design practice; for practitioners, educators, students, and researchers.

    Computer-aided design (CAD) technology has already changed the practice of architecture, and it has the potential to change it even more radically. With Architecture's New Media, Yehuda Kalay offers a comprehensive exposition of the principles, methods, and practices that underlie architectural computing. He discusses the aspects of information technology that are pertinent to architectural design, analyzes the benefits and drawbacks of particular computational methods, and looks at the potential of emerging computational techniques to affect the future of architectural design.

    CAD technology, introduced in the postwar era and adopted in everyday architectural practice beginning in the 1970s, is now so indispensable that, as William Mitchell observes in his foreword, architectural practice without it is "as unimaginable as writing without a word processor." Yet, Kalay argues, it has had little qualitative effect. This book provides a detailed introduction for practitioners, educators, students, and researchers to aspects of CAD that go beyond the improvements in drafting, modeling, and rendering for which it is commonly used. Computer-aided architectural design (CAAD) is capable of modeling and manipulating objects (not merely their graphical representations), reasoning about and predicting performance of design solutions, generating new design solutions through algorithmic and other methods, managing vast amounts of information, and taking advantage of opportunities offered by the Internet for collaboration across time and space and for design of the virtual "space" of the Internet itself.

    Architecture's New Media covers five main topics: design methods and computer technology and the relationship between computers and design; the principles of communication and representation; generative design methods; the advantages of computational methods for predicting and evaluating the performance of design solutions; and current and future developments in technology, including collaborative design, intelligent design assistants, construction automation, and virtual design environments.

    • Hardcover $12.75 £9.99
  • American Architects and Texts

    American Architects and Texts

    A Computer-Aided Analysis of the Literature

    Juan Pablo Bonta

    In American Architects and Texts, Juan Pablo Bonta analyzes the indexes of nearly 400 architectural books and articles published over the past century and a half to reveal changing societal preferences in architecture and to literally measure the reputations of individual architects.

    Preface by William J. Mitchell In American Architects and Texts, Juan Pablo Bonta analyzes the indexes of nearly 400 architectural books and articles published over the past century and a half to reveal changing societal preferences in architecture and to literally measure the reputations of individual architects. The result is a provocative study—part book, part electronic database and analysis software—that follows the ups and downs of more than 7,000 architects' standing in the literature and, indirectly, their standing in the profession. There is a ranked list of the "100 most famous architects," along with views of evolving architectural careers and the response to them by critics and historians. The complete database and analysis is available in machine-readable form. Bonta dates the appearance on the literary scene of past and present superstars, like Jefferson, Latrobe, Richardson, Sullivan, Wright, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Saarinen, Johnson, Venturi, and Meier. From his vast database emerge some surprising observations, for example Maya Ying Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, reached in just two years a level of visibility in the literature that Frank Lloyd Wright only achieved after thirty years of practice. By analyzing an index and comparing it to other indexes stored in the database, the system designed by Bonta tentatively assesses whether an architecture text delivers what it promises. It can identify areas calling for further coverage, and flag unexpected or unusual names as well as any names that may have been left out deliberately or inadvertently. The system also automatically identifies influential publications like Hitchcock and Johnson's The International Style, Stern's various Forty and Forty collections, or Reagan's American Architecture, which were instrumental in launching yet unknown names destined to brilliant careers. In a chapter devoted to gender equity, Bonta sounds the alarm on an impending sex war in the literature, with authors giving preference in their writing for architects of their own gender. Ada Louise Huxtable and Barbara Lee Diamondstein are credited for being exceptions to the trend.

    • Hardcover $14.75 £12.95