Jay Cephas studies the effects of large socio-economic forces on cities and how technology and labor practices interface with the totalizing effects of architecture. Jay analyzes both ordinary and critical spatial practices to recover the latent and as of yet invisible knowledges that are transmitted through the bodies and buildings of urban environments. In Fordism and the City, Jay deploys these frameworks to examine the agonism structuring Fordism and urbanization in early twentieth-century Detroit. Jay’s latest research project turns to New York City to address the knowledge transfer occurring between visionary architects and labor activists in their efforts to create cooperative housing.
Jay’s recent publications include “Picturing Modernity: Race, Labor, and Landscape in the American South,” which traces the ways in which black labor served to reinforce racialized landscape production in Georgia; “Agricultural Urbanism in Detroit,” which examines the changing meaning of urbanism in the after-city; and “Citing Sites,” an essay exploring the parallel construction of the biographical narrative and the life histories of cities. Jay’s urban design work built upon these themes by integrating scholarship and practice to produce innovative and lively urban spaces, such as the St. Joseph Rebuild Center, a disaster recovery center in New Orleans that was awarded a 2009 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence and the 2009 NCARB Prize for the Creative Integration of Practice and Education.
Jay is also the founding director of Studio Plat, a Boston-based geospatial research and development practice that develops products and systems to maximize social impact design and planning while helping mission-driven organizations build greater capacity through their work in community engagement, social justice, and equitable design.
Prior to Northeastern, Jay was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan. Jay holds a Ph.D. in History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism from Harvard University and an M.Arch. from the University of Detroit Mercy. In 2011, Jay served as the Critical Studies Fellow at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Jay is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Architectural Education. Recently, Jay conducted research on demographic maps as objects of racial resistance as a 2019 W. E. B. Du Bois Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.