Reconnecting | BNIM Symposium 2021

Reconnecting | BNIM Symposium 2021

Each year, our three studio offices gather together as OneBNIM for a day dedicated to meaningful conversations, listening to presentations from our colleagues and community partners, brainstorming new ideas, and considering the future of design. BNIM’s Annual Symposium is a long-established tradition for our practice, and this year was no different — though it was a first. At the end of January, BNIMers tuned in for our Annual, and first virtual, Symposium. After nearly a year since BNIM offices began operating in virtual and hybrid mode, 2021 Symposium focused on the central theme of Reconnecting.
Click the header image above to View OneBNIM's virtual symposium video greeting.

COVID-19 has completely changed the way we interact and connect with people. As a result, we needed to learn methods for Reconnecting with our project teams, clients, communities, family, and friends. This year’s Symposium was just as much about hearing how others Reconnect as it was about simply Reconnecting with each other for the day. The number one goal of the event was to get in touch with BNIMers and to be reinvigorated as OneBNIM. Symposium gave us the opportunity to see the great work that has been happening both inside and outside of BNIM even through these challenging times. It encouraged us to make time to celebrate the positive and talk about how to change the negative.

We took inspiration from Shawn Ginswright’s thought exercise: “What are you going to leave behind in the old world, and what are you going to bring into the new one?”

The Symposium’s presentations, conversations, and activities were organized into two key sessions. The first session of the day was focused on Resiliency. How have we formed new ways to work and reconnect during the pandemic or the ‘New Now?’ The second session was geared toward Moving Forward and moving through the portal of the pandemic (a concept introduced by Arundhati Roy) into the ‘Next Now.' Both sessions were guided by the overall goal for the day to Reconnect as a firm with all of our colleagues.


Visualizing Time

Led by BNIMer, Alyssa Parsons, our first activity of the day encouraged our staff to reflect, visualize and share the shifts we have experienced (as individuals and teams) during the pandemic. This allowed BNIM staff to graphically see and understand how our time and others’ time has changed since we began working from home.

Panel Discussion

BNIM heard from our local clients and community peers, Tami Greenberg of Ronald McDonald House Charities Kansas City, McClain Bryant Macklin of the Health Forward Foundation, and Rosalind Ross of Community HousingWorks about the resiliency of their organizations through a challenging year and how the areas of health and housing have adapted during the pandemic.

BNIM Interviews

BNIMers shared their personal stories about how they have adapted the way they volunteer and what they have done during the pandemic to bring meaning and enjoyment to their lives. It was a great opportunity for Reconnecting on a personal level and for everyone across the firm to see what our colleagues have been up to.

BNIM Book Club

This past year, a group of BNIMers participated in BNIM Book Club, reading and discussing “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. The book club presented and initiated a firm-wide discussion of understanding racial boundaries and inequities of the past and those that still exist today. The discussion led all of us in break out groups to think about how our industry, firm, and individual actions can dismantle redlining in our communities and promote equity in social justice issues.

Moving Forward


BNIM’s sustainability group presented on the sustainable outcomes and status of projects over the last year and identified our short and long-term goals as we continue our commitment to reducing embodied CO2 emissions across all of our projects.

Transplanting In-person Interactions with Art

Joe Keal shared his experience with expressing place, design, and hardship by painting through the pandemic. He presented a visual journey of the past months through artwork and shared a great metaphor for resiliency, explained in terms of the prairie: We are in the period of the burning prairie, but out of that burn comes reemergence and growth.

Design and Mentorship

Rod Kruse discussed meaningful mentorship in design, sharing experiences, projects, and lessons learned from his design mentor throughout his career. Rod’s presentation emphasized how good mentors continue to push you and your designs forward.

Building Trust and Taking Action

BNIMers James Baker and Natalie Gaydar concluded BNIM’s staff presentations with discussion of exercises for building trust with the media and personal initiatives for taking action for equality.

After a day of presentations and conversation with OneBNIM for our 2021 Symposium, the day was closed out with a short message from US Representative Sharice Davids, who shared an aspirational message about moving forward. The goal of Symposium was to discuss how we have learned and grown from the past year’s challenges. COVID put a spotlight on the inequities and broken systems of the world. We do not want to jump back into “the hamster wheel,” of the past, but to move through the pandemic as though it is a portal. Through our 2021 Symposium, we wanted to have aspirational discussions that focused on moving through that portal into a stronger and better world. We want to continue to be forward-thinking as a practice and ready to jump feet first into the next 50 years of BNIM.