Superpower on the Side is a series that features WeWork team members and how they spend their time when they’re not at work.
It was a chance encounter on a golf course that led David Banyard to the art world, though he’s always been creatively inclined. Growing up on the East Coast, Banyard dreamed of being an animator. But after living behind a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Chicago as a teen, he decided to pursue a career in architecture instead.
“I just fell in love,” recalls Banyard, 42, now a senior manager of construction technology in WeWork’s San Francisco HQ. “Like, ‘This is cool. Who gets to do this?’ I learned what architecture was, what an architect does, and it really excited me to make that my career.”
After graduating from Tuskegee University in Alabama, he worked at an architecture firm in Atlanta before moving to San Francisco in 2001. Eventually, he started consulting for construction and architecture firms. In his spare time, he took up a hobby: golf.
Banyard was hitting the links in 2012 when he struck up a conversation with sculptural artist Branly Cadet, who happened to be golfing nearby. When Cadet learned that Banyard was a trained architect, he asked him to collaborate on a commission: a 7-foot-long bronze statue of a bulldog for the Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey.
On that first project, Cadet focused on designing the sculpture, while Banyard was in charge of building the base. When that went well, Cadet asked Banyard to create a version of the bulldog that could be 3D printed and turned into keychains the school could sell.
“I’ve specialized in 3D printing for almost 20 years, and I love using the cutting edge of technology,” Banyard says. “It’s kind of exciting that something we designed is now in people’s houses.”
His love for technology led Banyard to WeWork in July 2018. He first approached David Fano, WeWork’s chief growth officer, years earlier about a job at CASE, the building information and technology consultancy Fano co-founded in 2008. That didn’t work out, and Fano joined WeWork in 2015 after selling CASE.
When Fano reached back out, Banyard was managing the construction of the new Golden State Warriors arena. He enjoyed his work, but the idea of helping establish the infrastructure for WeWork construction to expand throughout the West Coast and bringing all of the company’s projects in-house was too good to pass up.
“We’re trying to create a group that can handle all construction across the western region because we know how to build our product the best,” says Banyard.
In his role, Banyard interacts with different departments across the company to make sure WeWork teams have the technology they need to work out in the field. What he learns from these interactions doesn’t just benefit his WeWork construction projects—it also helps inform the side projects he continues to do with Cadet.
“There’s a lot of information you can get as long as you reach out and ask questions when you are interested in something,” Banyard says. “For example, I’ll go over to arts and graphics and ask them how they design these neons and how they work with the electricians to make sure it works on the wall.”
Since their first commission, Banyard and Cadet have partnered on six projects across the country, most highlighting historical figures, and they’ve worked out a system. When Cadet finds a commission he wants to go after, he’ll reach out to Banyard to see if he has the bandwidth to partner up. Then the two research the subject and come up with their respective designs: Cadet for the sculpture, Banyard for ancillary objects like the base the sculpture will go on, other elements that may have information about the subject, ground patterns, lighting, and even landscaping.
“I fell in love with the work after that [first] project,” Banyard says. “We started going for commissions that were higher-profile and not easy to get, and it was fun to be on that hunt.”
Before Cadet submits their final design, he and Banyard take time to editorialize each other’s ideas. It’s another way that Banyard’s experiences at WeWork have carried over; since his construction projects often involve many people, he’s become skilled at navigating different ideas and opinions to reach a plan that everyone can be happy with.
“Sometimes it can be a little biting to hear that the artist doesn’t like what you’re doing,” Banyard says, referring to Cadet. “But you just have to work through it. Because you’ll come to a really good idea together.”
To date, Banyard’s favorite collaborations with Cadet are a sculpture of baseball legend Jackie Robinson that stands just outside the main entrance to Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, and a 10-foot tall sculpture of Octavius V. Catto, the Civil War-era activist and educator, in Philadelphia.
“When you get to see something that you created and go back to it, that’s the biggest thing for me,” he says. “Seeing a product that I helped make happen that people are enjoying, that makes them say, ‘Oh, this is cool.’”
Banyard doesn’t regret forgoing a career as an animator but says it was a happy surprise to get back into art in his 30s. Because of that, he encourages his colleagues to keep trying new things and pursuing whatever it is that sparks their interest. After all, it was his love of golf that led him back to his dream of making art.
“Even if you’re not doing what you expected to be doing from the beginning, keep trying at it,” he says. “Eventually you might have some doors open for you.”
Photography by Ulysses Ortega