These five practices were chosen to demonstrate variety in approaches to self-initiation, places of practice, and scales of built work. Interviews were conducted with each practice in order to better understand their beliefs, processes, and how their practices function. Together, their overlapping attributes inform the five traits of Proactive Practice.


Office of Jonathan Tate

“Office of Jonathan Tate (OJT) is an architecture and urban design practice. [Their] work includes large scale, urban research and strategic planning initiatives, client‑based architectural commissions for a range of building types (commercial, residential, cultural), as well as self-developed projects” through their Starter Home* agenda.

Understanding the societal importance of home ownership through the economic empowerment it creates, OJT recognized a gap in the market for attainable, entry-level, single-family residential housing. This led to a larger applied-research investigation resulting in 17 self‑developed or crowdfunded infill single family homes sited on oddly shaped, passed-over lots. The Starter Home* strategy has been catalogued and made publicly available through The Starter Home* Vol. I, II, and III publications.

  1. Starter Home*: Design Research Publication (OJT)
  2. “Jumpstart Starter Homes” Jonathan Tate + Travis Bost (ARPA)
  3. Emerging Voices 2017 Lecture: Office of Jonathan Tate (ALNY)
  4. 211 Jonathan Tate, Architect Developer (Gower Crowd)


BLOCK Architects

BLOCK Architects is an architectural practice producing client-based architectural commissions in conjunction with their community-minded initiative, The BLOCK Project. The BLOCK Project seeks to reverse the perception of those experiencing homelessness as “others” by inviting homeowners in single-family residential neighborhoods to host homeless individuals within BLOCK Homes in their backyard. These 125 square foot Detached Accessory Dwelling Units are thoughtfully sited in a landscaped backyard and come fully equipped with a kitchenette, bathroom, sleeping/sitting area, and a covered front porch, giving residents safe and dignified homes. The BLOCK Project plans to share this model with municipalities who wish to address homelessness and create strong communities.

  1. The BLOCK Project: Seattle
  2. TEDx Seattle: Ending Homelessness Block by Block
  3. Homelessness: The Roots of the Crisis (City of Seattle)
  4. The Economics of Homelessness in Seattle and King County (McKinsey)


Zones Urbaines Sensibles

“ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles) develops solicited and unsolicited design and research in architecture, urbanism, and landscape design. ZUS contributes to the changing urban landscape through its dedication to architecture’s public role.... ZUS believes architecture’s imaginative power can contribute to a necessary shift of boundaries between private and public, long and short-term, nature and culture, and temporary and permanent. These contradictions enable progressive projects, nurturing long-term responsibility on the one hand and inviting user and public involvement on the other. These projects are never solitary statements; they are always fundamentally anchored in the city, the public domain, and within the long-standing traditions of architecture, urbanism, and landscape design.”

  1. Interview with ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles] (Architecture of Appropriation)
  2. City of Permanent Temporality
  3. Re-public: Towards a New Spatial Politics
  4. Kristian Koreman + Elma van Boxel — “Pro-Active Landscapes”


“Assemble is a multi-disciplinary collective working across architecture, design and art. Founded … to undertake a single self-built project, [they have maintained] a democratic and co-operative working method that enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales, both making things and making things happen.” Assemble’s self-initiated work produces communal creative workspaces. The collective often establishes businesses and organizations that support and ensure the longevity of these projects. Involving the communities who inhabit their spaces as both participants and collaborators introduces an element of unpredictability in their work, which they celebrate.

  1. “Assemble: Making Things Happen” (New York Times)
  2. “Assemble: The Unfashionable Art of Making a Difference” (The Guardian)
  3. “Turner prize winners Assemble: ‘Art? We’re More Interested in Plumbing’” (The Guardian)
  4. “Assemble Studio Creates Architecture That is Ad Hoc, Handmade, and Community-Driven” (Metropolis)
  5. Talking with Assemble – Before They Won the Turner (Archinect)
  6. Interview: Assemble | Architecture For All (52 Insights)



Javier Sanchez comes from a lineage of architects in Mexico City, preceded by both his father and grandfather who both worked to bring modernity to the city. Upon completing his studies in architecture, Javier partnered with a friend and ran a company that developed, designed, and built small projects in the central neighborhoods of Mexico City where they grew up. These historic neighborhoods were badly damaged by an earthquake in the mid 80s and most of the city’s development was focused on pushing outwards, leaving room in the old parts of the city for intervention. After working for nearly ten years, Javier left to study real estate at Columbia University. Upon returning, Javier and his partner divided the design company and the development company into two complimentary operations that continue to thrive twenty years later. With this structure, Javier is able to work in the capacity of a traditional architect as well as on self-developed work.

From the position of both architect and developer, Javier has the freedom to define the underlying conditions that shape inhabitation in these neighborhoods. According to Javier, “Architects don’t decide the program or the unit mixes of things, or how they interrelate with each other, or about choosing sites. Which I think is a position. When I talk about a position, it’s like how do you see your work inscribed within the city and what the city needs? You’re taking a posture or a position. In Spanish it would be la postura, which means, ‘I stand here and this is what I believe and this is why I want to build here.’”

These self-developed projects all live in the same cluster of Mexico City’s central neighborhoods with the majority of the work being sited in Condesa. Javier considers Condesa, “our real laboratory. Since we’ve been doing that for twenty three years as developers, it has given me the opportunity to go back to the same neighborhood again and again to try to figure out if the rules are the same, if the city has changed.”

Through self-developing Javier is able to blur the boundaries between his own projects, positioning new work next to old. Over decades, these clusters grow into conjuntos, or ensembles, with shared courtyards and new communities emerging between them.

  1. Interview with Javier Sanchez: ‘Where are the Projects? Let’s Find Them!’ (ArchDaily)
  2. Javier Sánchez, arquitecto (Letras Libres)
  3. 19: Rethinking a Life in Architecture with Javier Sánchez (Architecture Talk)
  4. Javier Sánchez & Robert Hutchison — UW Department of Architecture Lecture Series