July 12, 2019

One House at a Time: Knowlton Alumnus Curtis Moody’s Legacy House Project

With Legacy House, the founder and CEO of Moody Nolan makes a tangible gift of architecture.

On a cold March afternoon, a single mother and her two children moved into their new home on McClelland Avenue in Columbus' Linden neighborhood. The refrigerator and cabinets were already stocked, along with clothes in the closets and sheets on the beds, in the newly constructed and mortgage-free house.

The Legacy House Project is the vision of Curtis J. Moody, FAIA, NOMA, NCARB, LEED AP (BSARCH ’73), Founder and CEO of Moody Nolan, an architecture firm headquartered in Columbus. “We had the desire to see something more tangible in our charitable giving,” stated Moody. “We determined that since we are architects—and what we do is design—why don’t we do something that is within our wheelhouse?”

The result was a 750-square-feet house with three bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms and a family room that includes an extended outdoor living area and garden. Fulfilling their desire to address the plight of those least advantaged in the community, the firm partnered with the YMCA of Central Ohio and Southeast Healthcare Services to choose a deserving family.

“Do what you can when you can, with what you’ve got while you’ve got it! This really sums it up. There is no time for excuses anymore,” explained Moody, recalling a phrase born out of the Legacy Project experience. Many former contractors and suppliers on Moody Nolan projects took this message to heart, and more than 25 made significant contributors to the building and furnishing of the house. Construction partners donated labor and services, and companies supplied materials and fixtures such as windows, flooring and lighting. The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority donated the site.

Moody Nolan’s involvement went beyond the design and construction oversight of the house. When members of the firm found out the age and gender of the children moving into the house, they decided to stock the house with appropriate toys, clothes and art work.

Moody indicated that principles of the tiny house movement were considered during the initial conceptualization of the house. The open plan environment of the house utilizes large glass windows to allow natural light to flood the high-volume interior living areas.

“We purposely did not design a traditional-looking home, even though in many urban neighborhoods the desire is to put in a home that looks like everything down the street,” Moody stated. “We wanted the design of this house to be more indicative of the future.”

While the Legacy House Project serves the community in which Moody Nolan first established its practice, the firm has expanded beyond its Columbus, Ohio roots. Today, it is the largest African American owned and managed design firm in the country, with more than $750 million in building construction each year. With offices established in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati and New York in 2017, the firm is now represented in twelve cities with over 200 employees around the country.

While the firm’s portfolio highlights work from coast to coast, many buildings strike closer to home for the Columbus native. It is hard to imagine a Buckeye experience that has not been impacted by the presence of Moody Nolan’s work on the Ohio State campus. Moody has served as the principal architect for many notable campus buildings, including the new Ohio Union (2009), the Jerome Schottenstein Center and Basketball Practice Facility (1993, 2013), the Recreational and Physical Activities Center (2005), and the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium (2001).

Moody shared that his desire to design buildings goes back to grade school when he entered a model house competition at the Ohio State Fair and won second place. Reflecting on the unique opportunity to study architecture at the same university that now highlights his iconic buildings, Moody commented, “Ohio State educated me, and then had the confidence that the education they gave me was of the quality that they could then utilize me. The fact that I was able to come back and make so many connections, even to this day, is definitely an honor.”

With Moody Nolan’s legacy established on the Ohio State campus and beyond, the goal is to expand the Legacy House Project as an annual gift in each of the 12 communities in which the firm operates.