Designing the SBC

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Architect Mike McSwain has left his mark across Shreveport-Bossier

Local architect Mike McSwain describes himself as a “just a guy who draws pictures.” But those pictures have changed the face of Shreveport-Bossier. From designing CSRA’s Integrated Technology Center, the Cyber Innovation Center and the Sci-Port Discovery Center to condominiums in Indonesia and a luxury estate community in China, his “pictures” are adding aesthetic and real value to the world.

“After I first discovered architecture at Texas Tech, I got really consumed with architecture and the idea of how it surrounds us everywhere we go – our homes, work, places we travel,” McSwain said. “It changes our lives.”

“I’m really proud that I have the luxury of doing projects in town that people go to and I can drive around and take people to. I consider myself very lucky.”

Locally, his portfolio also includes the Shreveport Regional Airport and the renovation of Municipal Auditorium. His latest project is the $13 million Bossier City downtown master plan to change the face of “Old Bossier” into the new East Bank District with bike paths, entertainment plazas and more to appeal to Millennials.

“We hope that we’re improving everyone’s quality of life. You leave a legacy behind and the rest of the population uses that. Good design matters,” McSwain said.

He views his work as 3D art that serves as brand extension, saying, “No matter what that entity is, it’s an extension of who they are. We’re really good at listening to our clients and making it their own. Every project is a little bit different, so we want to make it personal to that client and their company’s progression.”

From honing his skills at one of the biggest architectural firms in the country, Mike moved with his wife to her hometown in Shreveport and found it to be a rude awakening, admitting, “I hated It for about five years. I left doing high-rise condos in Indonesia to come here and do a parking lot at LSUS. But after that, I decided ‘I’m going to make it work here.”

Fast forwarding to now, his firm recently turned 12 and that success, McSwain said, goes back to his team.

“Every client expects me to show up and that’s tough because I can get stretched too thin. It’s tough, but I can find a way to meet with in-town and out of town clients. Although, sometimes I don’t have the answers so my team needs to be there.”

He said his personal success comes down to organizing and listening, taking client’s thoughts and applying that in a design form that helps influence and put the project in motion. Within his own walls, though, McSwain said he’s learned how to walk the tightrope between the large projects half a world away and those in his own backyard.

“Having that big firm experience to see how it all works helps me relate to those clients. But moving to a small firm is how I really learned to do this,” he revealed. “You have to wear a bunch of different hats to deal with everyone between those two extremes.”

What has served him well is sticking to his guns and trusting himself, even when he is the most progressive person in the room.

“So many people will influence a project to where it’s watered down and then you’ve done a disservice to everybody. But if you trust your gut, you’re going to deliver,” McSwain said.

It’s something that helps when implementing his riskier designs found through his travels. Traveling informs how he sees the world and he often sketches spaces that help him remember designs, urban planning, and flow of people to create his unique work.

“I use these experiences to add to my mental library to pull from for our firm’s design efforts on new projects,” McSwain said. “But doing more progressive things is a risk. It is a risk. You put your thoughts out there, you’re going to take bullets. But you need to be confident to lead with forward thinking ideas.”

Forward thinking and progressive design can be a tough road, but confidence and due stubbornness have clearly paid off well for Mike McSwain.

“I find myself in weird positions, like being on this executive team that works with city and community leaders. I’ve been told ‘you speak your mind and don’t hold back.’ And everyone brings their own value and their own knowledge, so speak that.”