Proof does design research to develop elegant, innovative approaches to projects that enrich large, living cultural landscapes over time.
Our mission is to work with clients, stakeholders, and publics to find common ground in large natural and constructed projects, and to develop ways of enriching those projects and minimizing costs and risks through time.
Proof has multiple meanings. One refers to the historical and material evidence that offers insight into the true nature of a process or situation which can provide a basis for decision-making about the future. Our research and design practice is grounded in such evidence, helping clients to discover it and working with it over time to create grounded, useful ways forward.
Another root is Erin’s long-term fascination with baking naturally leavened bread. One of the last stages of bread baking involves proofing the loaf of bread. Much of the prep work has been done at this point, with all of the steps taken to ensure the flavor and structure of the final product, and the final shaping of the loaf complete — the most important step is to wait. It is not a “do nothing” wait — it is an engaged wait: watching, testing, possibly shifting the temperature, adjusting the proofing-time depending on the response of the dough. It cannot be formulaic: It is different every time.
It struck us that we think about design the same way — active and intelligent waiting can be so important, especially in large landscapes where the human and ecosystem communities and the biophysical processes are active and complex. Intervening at just the right moment and to just the right degree after long periods of patient observation encapsulates a design ethos that we feel is needed today.
Our endeavors are hard to render. We work to observe natural and historical processes, driven by their own inner “yeast”, and to intervene in small and strategic ways to affect the outcome. We believe that the effort that we should make, as designers, to understand the realms in which we hope to productively intervene should far outweigh the effort of the intervention. This philosophy holds in the context of interventions into natural processes of growth and dying, erosion and accretion, but also in the context of large-scale human processes of maintenance and construction.
Proof was founded in 2020 by Erin, Sean, and Brian. Each had worked in contemporary design offices, Erin as an architect, Brian as a landscape architect, and Sean as both. All three had been and remain university professors, leading research projects focused on coastal and riverine wetland and forest landscapes. This combination of experiences made clear to them that there existed a need for a new model of design practice that might focus less on capital projects and the delivery of design services and more research and innovation in the context of large landscape management and maintenance. We offer a way for clients to grapple with the uncertainties of climate change and economic volatility, the need for environmental justice, and the desire to create a richer and more habitable world over time.