Byron Stewart was an eight-year-old when he saw the building that changed his life.
“We were in Alexandria. It was a very eye-catching building. It wasn’t traditional in design,” Stewart, now 62, remembers. “When I asked my mother about it, she said ‘Architects do that.’ ” Thus, Stewart’s course was inevitably set.
After the family moved to New Orleans from Hammond (He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.), Stewart attended Cohen High School, where students are “book smart and street smart,” then Southern University. He earned a degree in architecture and was licensed for practice in 1987.
Today he is a successful professional, who designs innovative residential, commercial and institutional sites for his firm Modus Inc. In 2017 Stewart joined Amistad Research Center’s board of directors. He also serves as treasurer to the board.
“This is a great organization to be a part of. I love everything it stands for,” Stewart says.
“It’s a privilege to be on the board, and it’s also an asset for them to have a variety of expertise on the Amistad board. I am excited to learn and support the growth of Amistad’s vision and goals. My goal is to use my expertise to support in bringing [Amistad] to another level,” Stewart says, pausing during a break in his busy schedule.
Modus, the name of his firm, means “the total procedure for design.” It explains Stewart’s thinking about why more architects should be tapped for service on more boards of directors.
“Architects bring to the table their experiences of creating environments. There’s no one like that at the table: capable of creating the total, built environment,” Stewart says. “It’s the difference between building a house and building a community.”
Stewart is a member of the American Institute of Architects. Some of his notable projects include Harrah’s New Orleans Casino; Carter G. Woodson School and Marrero Commons in Orleans Parish, Mooretown Library and Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, La. Stewart has worked on a variety of projects not limited to churches, fire stations and residencies.
“Different people teach you different things. Every job I had was to learn. Once I couldn’t do that, I left,” Stewart says. “In order for an African-American architect to be successful in this country, we must work in the public sector. Nationwide, approximately 95% of African-American architects work on public projects. There are also a lot of opportunities in the private sector. My hope is that in the near future we will have larger African-American representation in private projects.”
Stewart believes, “Just because you are non-profit organization doesn’t mean that an organization can’t profit.” Stewart is constantly generating ideas to create ways to profit, that would relieve the stress of fundraising for operational expenses for Amistad. This would provide more time to focus on the organization’s goals and mission statement. In conclusion Stewart states, “ I look forward to contributing to Amistad’s continued growth and I am elated to be a part of archiving our history and sharing it with others.”
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