Black History Month has special meaning for local architect

WASHINGTON — Black History Month is especially poignant for a local man who studied with the best architects in the world at the Yale University Master’s Program before returning home to begin his career.

“For me it’s just been quite a month as far as black history is concerned because we’ve been able to contribute to Washington’s cultural history,” says Architect Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design.

“As a native Washingtonian and African American, coming back to D.C. and being able to contribute to African American culture … it’s been great,” Marshall said.

Marshall and his team designed the Chuck Brown Memorial in Northeast, they helped design the new student center at Marshall’s alma mater, the University of the District of Columbia, and were part of the team restoring and renovating Howard Theatre.

“As someone who has relatives that frequented the Howard Theatre during it’s heyday, [and] as an African American also, it’s very important to me to be part of what is a strong cultural performance venue not only for D.C., but in the nation,” Marshall said.

Howard Theatre opened in 1910 and is older than the iconic Apollo Theater in New York, which opened in 1914.

“[Howard Theatre] was part of what was called the chitin circuit, where African American performers would go up and down the East Coast and as far West as Chicago, where they could perform during the segregation time,” Marshall explains.

Marshall also is proud of working on the City Vista development that helped to revitalize the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood downtown near the Washington Convention Center.

“It was great to be part of that team because, as a native Washingtonian, as a kid I remember when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated and what the city looked like during the riots. So, to be part of what was a renaissance for that part of D.C. was a privilege for us to be part of,” Marshall said thoughtfully.

The City Vista development includes living, retail, office space, restaurants and one of the first grocery stores downtown since the destructive riots of ’68, Marshall said. “So, it was a real important project for the city.”

Marshall Moya Design currently is finishing up work on Payne Elementary in Southeast that primarily serves children with special needs, including the visually impaired and deaf.

That project includes the installation of Induction Loop Technology.

“It’s a technical system that gets rid of background noises so kids with hearing assistance devices can hear more clearly and sharply. So, that was a great project to be involved in also,” Marshall said.

Looking ahead, Marshall Moya Design is Associate Architect for the new soccer stadium to be built for D.C. United in Southwest near Nationals Park.

Where Marshall is today perhaps is ironic considering that when he was a child his mother worked as a night janitor, often at the American Association of Architects building in D.C.

It has been quite a month and career for Marshall, who as a kid always liked to draw and became inspired upon seeing his first set of blueprints at 11.

“I thought, ‘Oh! Maybe I’ll be an architect!'”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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