Jana Cephas is a designer and historian who studies the interactions between people, places, and technologies. She is especially interested in the effects of large socio-economic forces on cities, how technology and technical thinking mediate the encounters between people and places, and how labor practices interface with the totalizing effects of architecture. Jana 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 her current book project, Fordism and the City: How an Industrial Aesthetic Shaped Detroit and the Urban Imaginary, Jana deploys these frameworks to examine the agonism structuring Fordism and urbanization in early twentieth-century Detroit. For her next research project, Jana turns to New York City to address the knowledge transfer occurring between visionary architects and radical social activists in their efforts to create cooperative housing.
Jana’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. Jana’s urban design work builds 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.
She is the founding director of Studio Plat, a geospatial research and development practice that examines the past, present, and future of cities. Studio Plat develops digital projects exploring the potentials and possibilities of data humanism and how humanistic research in architecture and urbanism can further technological initiatives. Current Studio Plat projects include an interactive atlas of cities in history, an archive of urban open data sites, and a web application for conducting research in architectural and urban history.
Jana is currently an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, and Postdoctoral Scholar at the Michigan Society of Fellows. She holds a Ph.D. in History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism from Harvard University, an M.Arch. from the University of Detroit Mercy, and was the 2011 Critical Studies Fellow at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Additionally, Jana has served as the Editorial Director for Positions: On Modern Architecture + Urbanism / Histories + Theories and was a Design + Research Fellow at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, where she designed and managed building projects for low-income communities.