RIP Bill Mitchell

Shitfuck. Bill Mitchell — gone at 65, with more good ideas left in him than most people will ever have.

Bill’s optimism about technology and cities was infectious, even if (like me) you thought of yourself as the kind of person who’d been inoculated by experience against anything as uncritical as everything implied by that word. In meeting him, you found yourself in conversation with someone ten times as experienced, immersed in the challenges of developing for the ever-refractory “real” world, and still hopeful. His willingness, in his early sixties, to display a palpable and unabashed excitement over the things a networked urbanism might do for us showed up the cynicism I wore to our encounter for the defensive posturing it surely was.

This is not to say I always and invariably agreed with his perspective. If anything at all, the very opposite is true: my notes on Me++, to cite just one example, practically leap off the page in their desire to challenge, contradict, and haha! refute the rich body of Mitchellian assertion. But even a disputatious reader has finally to grant Mitchell his sweep and ambition, his classical grounding, his early perspicacity regarding the implications of networked informatics for the built environment, and even (occasionally, but too often for it to be entirely accidental) a lovely ear for language.

RIP, Bill: you were one of a very few whose efforts made my own work conceivable, let alone possible. I’ll try to honor your memory by letting just a little of your optimism, fully wonted or not, seep through into my writing…and if I thereby touch a hundredth as many people as you did, I’ll consider that very great success indeed.

4 responses to “RIP Bill Mitchell”

  1. luca says :

    Adam, thanks for this post — it made me go back to some earlier work and think again about it. It’s a fascinating theme, with so much still open to exploration (and yes, perhaps some dose of optimism could be helpful — but well, there is often also a lack of criticism around…). cheers.

  2. Ian Fitzpatrick says :

    A gorgeous turn of phrase, Adam. I never made Mitchell’s acquaintance, but his optimism is continually evident to those of us in Boston whose very purview he played such a role in shaping.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. lgalli - 14 June 2010
  2. In memoriam: William Mitchell | lgalli - 1 January 2015

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