Holding Space | 2023 BNIM Symposium

Holding Space | 2023 BNIM Symposium

BNIM staff from across multiple studios attended an annual Symposium event in our Kansas City office this May. As the first time gathering back together in-person after three years of virtual events, it was an exciting reunion to reconnect with our colleagues and to take the time to learn, discuss, refocus, and explore our work and the future of design.

The 2023 Symposium was inspired the concept of “Holding Space.” To hold space for someone is to make room, to give our time and focus, and to create place of safety and forum for expression. It is a call to action to stay attuned to the feelings of those around us and to be fully present as we engage with and navigate our work and daily interactions. As a practice, we considered how we hold space for each other, the environment, and the communities we work with through a spirit of empathy, generosity, and responsibility to inspire change and enhance the human condition.

Symposium attendees heard from several presenters, including BNIM team members as well as industry and community partners, who focused on topics and projects aligned with the concept of “Holding Space.” Taking on a format of discourse and dialogue, this Symposium gave us the space to listen as well as to really lean into conversations. We gathered in small groups to reflect on the topics shared which included understanding our individual and collective purposes;  practicing listening, attunement, and engagement; expanding the spectrum for inclusive design and thinking about what it means to design with empathy for all people; and exploring design and sustainability’s evolving relationship with materiality and future technology.

Our discussions were guided by a series of thought-provoking questions integral to our practice and the future of architecture and design, including:

  • How is our collective purpose evolving to enhance the human condition?
  • How are “Holding Space” and our core purpose connected?
  • Who is missing from our approach to create equitable and inclusive design?
  • What is a strategy can we explore to advance the strategies of the ALL book and create a more broadly inclusive methodology in our design process?
  • How might Artificial Intelligence alter/impact the profession of architecture?
  • How does the concept of “Holding Space” lend itself to architecture that responds to the ongoing and ever-changing public domain?
  • What is most important to you about the future of BNIM and our mission?


In response, BNIM team members shared over 200 thoughts on interactive discussion boards and key takeaways which will serve as future guideposts, resources, and catalysts in our work at BNIM. The expanse of ideas, questions, challenges, and aspirations that emerged in these conversations respond to a key Symposium objective — bringing together our collective thoughts and voices to create a better practice; holding space for each other as OneBNIM.