Stephen Gray

Associate Professor of Urban Design

Stephen Gray is an Associate Professor of Urban Design and founder of Boston-based design firm Grayscale Collaborative. Operating at the intersection of research and practice, Gray’s interests center on political and cultural justice in cities, socio-ecological urban design approaches to resilience, and the intersectionality of humanitarian aid and design. His work acknowledges the relationship between race, class, and the production of space, interrogates design’s contribution to and complicity with structural and infrastructural racism, and develops methodologies and interventions that address inequity, exclusion, social justice, and precarity at the scales of infrastructures, communities, metropolitans, and the globe.

The design of cities concentrates urban resources in some places, and marginalized communities in others. Still, many designers operate with either formal or social-impact imperatives, ignoring the very real social implications (good, bad, or otherwise) that their designs have for society. In 2015, Gray founded Grayscale Collaborative to work with communities that take on complex urban challenges, reconcile competing interests, forge new and ongoing relationships, and work collaboratively towards better designed and more inclusive built environments. Gray’s personal background directly influences his work and allows him to make meaningful contributions in culturally dynamic and sometimes contentious urban settings. Having successfully collaborated on or led more than 25 high-quality community-engaged design projects, Gray was nationally recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2015 with a national AIA Honor Award and then again in 2020 with a national AIA Award for Collaborative Achievement.

Grayscale’s current projects include urban design studies for Harvard’s campus expansion with the Harvard Allston Land Company, a racially equitable public realm initiative for Boston’s Seaport with the Massachusetts Port Authority, engaged design for Boulevard Crossing Park with the Atlanta BeltLine, community engagement for the Franklin Park Master Plan with the Boston Parks Department, and urban design guidelines for Mattapan with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). Gray has previously been a cochairman of Boston’s 100 Resilient Cities Resilience Collaborative for “Resilient Boston: An Equitable and Connected City”. While at Sasaki from 2008-2015 his work ranged variously from strategic reinvestment in downtown Wichita, to parks planning for the City of Bridgeport, advanced online engagement for the GoBoston 2030 mobility master plan, urban design visions for downtown Raleigh and uptown Cincinnati, and resilience planning for South Shore Long Island in post-Sandy New York. Stephen has written on topics race and resilience for the Guardian, the Boston Globe, and Next City.

Gray’s academic research includes the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative foregrounding systemic racism in the socio-spatial development of Boston; process design with the Global Design Initiative for Refugee Children for child-focused spaces; and research with the World Bank examining the interconnectedness of informality, vulnerability, and resilience. He is currently co-leading an Equitable Impacts Framework pilot with the Urban Institute and High Line Network aimed at advancing racial equity agendas for infrastructure reuse projects across North America.

Gray serves on the Harvard Asia Center Council and President Bacow’s Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. He is also a Co-Chair of the GSD Diversity Council and the GSD Review Board, and a coordinating faculty member for the GSD’s Design Discovery program. He has been a lecturer at MIT School of Architecture + Planning and Northeastern University School of Architecture, Associate Director on the Board of the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), and has been tapped to serve on several Urban Land Institute (ULI) advisory panels. Gray holds a B.Arch. degree from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design (MAUD) degree with distinction from Harvard University where he received the Thesis Prize for Urban Design and the Award for Outstanding Leadership in Urban Design.