Making a difference through design

By: Curtis J. Moody

Moody Nolan set up shop in Columbus, Ohio in 1982 as the newest – and the smallest – African-American owned architectural firm in the world. Today, we’re the largest.

Of course, much has happened between 1982 and 2014. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working on hundreds of projects that transformed neighborhoods and the lives of those who lived there. Along the way, we’ve built a reputation for responsive architecture, meaning we design what our clients want and need, not what we’d like to see built.

While we can point to numerous projects of which we’re proud, perhaps the most fulfilling are those that help lift up African-American neighborhoods – the same kind of communities in which some of us grew up.

For example, early last year we learned that Moody Nolan had been named lead architect for Chicago’s new Malcolm X College, a brand new campus on the city’s west side. The college is part of the City Colleges of Chicago’s community jobs program that designates more than 10 percent of the total construction jobs for neighborhood residents.

But the college means more than temporary neighborhood jobs. The college itself will make a permanent mark on students who earn their degrees there in pursuit of tomorrow’s careers, such as health sciences.

While that project allowed us to double our Chicago office and become the city’s largest African-American owned architectural firm, we’re proud to make a difference in other urban neighborhoods as well.

For example, an historic high school in Washington, D.C. has a new lease on life, and Moody Nolan is pleased to have played a role in its renaissance. Moody Nolan collaborated with architectural firm Perkins Eastman on a design for the new Dunbar Senior High School that honors the school’s history while bringing it into the modern age.

The new structure, which opened in August, retains its historic connection to the neighborhood and its namesake, famed African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, while incorporating modern features such as solar components and natural light.

We knew the Dunbar project was special from the very beginning, given the school’s history as one of the strongest African-American high schools in the nation. From its inception in 1870, the school during the first half of the 20th century graduated numerous business and government leaders.

In the late 1970s the original building was demolished and a cast-concrete, fortress-like structure erected nearby. It never quite fit with the neighborhood and cut off the historic O Street, which ran through the site.

The new school is not just a replacement for the old building, but a symbol of an educational and neighborhood resurrection.

As we celebrate Black History Month, projects like these are reminders that Moody Nolan isn’t just in this business for the art. We’re in it to make a difference.

Curtis J. Moody, CEO and President of Moody Nolan is an award-winning designer . A winner of the prestigious Whitney M. Young, Jr. award as an outstanding African American Architect in the United States, Curt’s designs have won nearly 200 design citations, including 30 from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and 34 from the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), more awards than any other minority architectural firm in the United States.