B&A Expands its Partnership Team


On April 1, 2020, the B&A Partnership officially grew from five members to seven. Congratulations to Brian Murray and Geoff Dyer as they join Kathy Oberg, Ken Venner, Nathan Petherick, Pam McInnis and Vern Hart as our newest partners at the firm.

Managing Partner Kathy Oberg says this is a significant step for the company. “Beyond the enormous breadth of expertise that Brian and Geoff will add to the partnership, this change will help steer B&A into the future as we continue to grow our service offerings,” Kathy says. “We wish a heartfelt congratulations to Brian and Geoff and look forward to working closely with them and learning from these two creative minds.”

Get to know Brian Murray and Geoff Dyer…

BRIAN MURRAY

GEOFF DYER

Brian was previously in the role of Associate at B&A and led the opening and expansion of our Edmonton office. He prides himself on his ability to get things done with a ‘can-do’ attitude and his self-proclaimed “Timmins-twang” (perhaps a subtle Shania Twain reference). Brian says he thinks of urban planning and design as problem solving. Brian says clients look to us to help solve design issues and he loves working with them to tackle their issues and create solutions. 

Geoff was previously an Associate and Strategic Lead of the Master Planning and Urban Design group out of our Calgary office. We’re lucky if we ever catch him there though, as his invaluable work takes him to far-off places, from Invermere to Louisiana. Geoff is well-known for his creative, outside of the box thinking and his passion for public participation (we’re still wondering if he created the charette).
Describe your education and early career.  
BRIAN
I hold a diploma in Architectural Technology from North College and an honours BA specializing in Urban, Economic and Social Geography from the University of Toronto. I began my career as a youth intern planner for the City of Timmins and helped create their first GIS system. I also worked for an architecture studio in Toronto helping design homes for a large land developer and homebuilder. I later moved west to begin a career at the City of Edmonton and I only planned to stay a year, but 13 years have passed and I’m still here. I started out at the front counter at the City then moved into the Central Planning unit to work on redevelopment projects across the downtown and central areas. Then a few years ago, I joined the team at B&A.

GEOFF
Following a first kick at Industrial Design I jumped into my first of two experimental boutique degree programs- a developer driven “how to do sprawl as taught by Arizona’s finest developers.” My group mates loathed me because I gravitated to mixed use urban projects with complicated spreadsheets. I graduated in 1998 after getting married to a Canadian in 1997. 

From there I plotted my career out at a conventional planning/engineering firm (Walker Newby – Urban Systems) for two years before starting my second boutique degree- the Urban Design program at EVDS, and made sure to graduate before my first kid was born in 2003. Right away I went to work for myself and got hired on contract to do the urban design component in the East Village ARP. Shortly after I secured the SilverTip resort village project. I also had the great experience of working on a 2004 Charrette in Chico California with Leon Krier who I later brought into the SilverTip project and remain friends with to this day. That Charrette also led the way to my future Partnership with PlaceMakers.

I have been fortunate to work with and learn from many people over the years (warning, this is the name dropping section), including Randall Arendt, Peter Calthorpe, Steve Mouzon, Stefanos Polyzoides, Ray Gindroz (Design Workshop), and Dan Parolek (Opticos). I developed a deep connection with Andres Duany and DPZ- who became and remains my mentor, working on several projects and participating on the forefront of Form Based Codes research, development, and implementation.   

What drew you to your field?   
BRIAN
I’ve always been interested in finding something new and exciting within cities. From a young age I would travel to Toronto and explore the city with my family and stumble across something new every time. I’ve always enjoyed active and vibrant urban spaces and the evolution of space and community. I like trying to read a city and understand how it evolved, especially when you look at older areas you can find clues to its history that help reveal its story. 
GEOFF
As a kid I wanted to be a car designer and work for Porsche. I was really good at drawing 911’s and as mentioned, completed two years of industrial design after I bombed out of Architecture at Arizona State (I’m a Sun Devil, Man!).

While in my second degree, the VP for Continental Homes turned our class onto “The Geography of Nowhere” by Jim Kunstler and for the first time someone explained the situation that I was grasping at… and it was game over. 

Describe your favourite/most memorable projects.   

BRIAN
I loved the Bonnie Doon Town Centre project because I got to work in my neighbourhood and an area of the City that hasn’t been looked at in a long time. This project gave me an opportunity to have impact on a community that will continue to evolve over the next 30-50 years.  

The Capital City Downtown Plan was also an exciting opportunity as a young planner to have an impact on Edmonton’s downtown.  When I arrived in Edmonton in 2007, I always had a sense of Edmonton’s energy – a big small city on the verge of becoming a small big city. Edmonton has a can-do attitude and I have made this my mission in life. Now 10 years since it was approved, the downtown plan is being implemented and its amazing to see it come to life. 

GEOFF
SilverTip Resort Village – in about 2005 we endeavored to design the Canadian Rockies version of an Alpine Village and I convinced the developer to go to Europe to study and learn. I was paid a daily rate to travel the Swiss, Italian, and French Alps hitting 27 cities in 10 days. Tough times! That project got me established as a viable design firm.
What’s a little known/interesting fact about your career?  
BRIAN
I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Edmonton, so I volunteered with a group of engaged young professionals in Edmonton’s NextGen. I worked on a variety of projects and eventually became the Civic Co-Chair (representing the City of Edmonton) of the NextGen Board. NextGen is all about making Edmonton a better place for young people to thrive and engage with community so I was naturally drawn to it. 
GEOFF
I am currently working on a “design manual” with my ex PlaceMakers colleague Nathan Norris.  The effort is targeted at non-urban designers to help them better understand the fundamentals of designing great cities and neighbourhoods.
What do you enjoy most about your field?   
BRIAN
I love to think about cities or urban spaces as unfinished. Our cities are rebuildable and there’s always an opportunity to imagine what could be. As communities change and people come and go, the idea of what a space could be also changes. On all the projects I work on, I love asking the community about their vision for the area. Each response is unique and represents a little bit about who they are. That collective is what makes each project a unique place making opportunity – that’s fun. 
GEOFF
For any designer, the ultimate joy is seeing that thing you envisioned in your mind successfully come to life in the real world. Our built environment is something that is intimate to us all, but a deeper understanding of the many elements that need to come together to make great places, and the multitude of factors that influence those elements create a unique challenge for urban design. I enjoy the pursuit of piecing these things together as part of my role in the bigger project of City-building that so many of us collectively work toward. 
What do you enjoy most about working at B&A?   
BRIAN
To me, B&A is about family. Everyone is willing to pitch in to get the job done and there’s no shortage of creative and talented people to brainstorm with. B&A’ers also love to have fun and have a laugh. 
GEOFF
Having a talented team on my side to tackle a wide range of projects, and effect change more broadly than in my previous boutique design firm.
What perspective will you offer to the partnership/ B&A?   
BRIAN
I bring an open mind and an ability to dynamically steer through any situation. I like taking big challenges head on and I often find myself leaning on the leadership skills I gained at The City. I adapt to various situations, clients, and team members, so I think I naturally build relationships which helps to achieve winning solutions. My attitude is to get things done – something I’ve learned from the Edmonton community. 
GEOFF
I’m at a transitional age from my younger nothing-to-loose cutting-edge experience-building self, to an older (somewhat jaded) and more sage self. I am fortunate that the world has turned in the direction of my training and experience which is creating more walkable and urban communities. At the same time, recent events remind us that things can change quickly, and we need to be ready to see new opportunities and change with the time. City building is not going away, and although it may look different, it will be more important than ever. I am excited to work as team, explore uncharted territory and come out of this thing on the top of our game. 
What are your thoughts for the year ahead?   
BRIAN
While the future is uncertain, our planners make a difference in the communities we work in. I believe B&A will continue to help plan and design healthy communities across western Canada. I’m also excited to work with the progressive industry in the Edmonton Region, and beyond, to do things differently now to help create healthy and sustainable communities in the future.   
GEOFF
The now all-absorbing pandemic has raised many questions on Citybuilding and society as a whole.  As we seek to rebuild our economies, it will be more important than ever to match our best planning tools, lessons, and experiences to building more resilient, productive, livable Cities. 
What are you up to when you aren’t working?   
BRIAN
I love to explore the places I visit to uncover interesting and unique qualities. I always try and get involved with my community, in both my industry and through other local opportunities. In the summer you can find me in my garden on my patio or in the kitchen cooking up a storm for family and friends.  

GEOFF
I grew up around my father’s penchant for hobbies: race cars, fencing, archery, building and flying planes, motorcycles, and the list goes on. I also picked up on my mom’s crafting, drawing, and sewing talents. What I retained is my family’s tradition of playing guitar – that is my primary hobby and where I spend Geoff time. My kids keep me busy too.