Early in Curt Moody’s career, he recalls flipping through magazines and reading about architects receiving prestigious awards. It was 1982, and he had just founded his architecture firm, Moody and Associates, now known as Moody Nolan. For his future, he envisioned greatness, but never pictured himself being featured in the pages he so often read. 

Nearly four decades later, Moody Nolan, now operated by Curt's son and CEO Jonathan Moody, has become a leader in the industry. Recently, the Columbus company was named 2021 Firm of the Year by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

The national award is offered to just one firm each year and is the most prestigious honor extended to firms by the AIA. Moody Nolan is the 58th recipient of the award, and the first to be based in Ohio.

To be eligible for the award, firms must have produced top-notch architecture for at least a decade. However, Moody Nolan’s portfolio has stretched far and wide for much longer, with notable projects like the Schottenstein Center and Columbus Metropolitan Library's Martin Luther King Branch. 

Moody Nolan is the largest Black-owned architecture firm in the country, and the success often shocks Curt, who reveals that the biggest challenge for the company early on was simply surviving.

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“One of the things that has just been a fact is that major magazines rarely published projects or a profile on firms of color,” Curt says, “so it wasn’t like the significance of work that we would do as a company would be something that grabbed the attention of someone.”

Today, the firm still faces hurdles being a minority-owned company, but the Moodys agree much of their success can be credited to their mission to foster a diverse and inclusive work community.

Moody Nolan’s team is composed of over 40 percent women, and 30 percent of the team identifies as minorities. Curt Moody says how important it is to have a broad scope, so a variety of perspectives and voices is included throughout a project, instead of a single designer doing all of the work. That, he emphasizes, is what makes the company stand out.

While the father-son duo stresses the importance of a diverse team, Jonathan Moody notes Moody Nolan strives to represent each client through every project it completes. When the firm is recognized for a project, it’s a reminder to clients that their voice plays a major role in the firm's success, he says.

Jonathan took over as CEO of Moody Nolan at the beginning of 2020, and since then, he has worked to maintain the values the firm was built on. He was named a finalist for Columbus CEO's CEO of the Year award in December.

Something Moody has grown used to is the ability to constantly relearn, remove limitations and work to be better.

“One of the questions that always comes up is where we are going, or where we see ourselves in five or 10 years,” Jonathan says. “The honest answer? I don’t know where we’d like to be. It feels like every time I say, ‘Oh, man, it would be nice to achieve this, or reach that,’ we get there.”

For the company, Jonathan and Curt share there have already been positive benefits to winning Firm of the Year. Notably, they are excited to see the confidence the award brings to both the team and their clients.

We wrote last year about the transition of leadership from Curt Moody to Jonathan Moody in our Leadership Issue. In that same issue, we did a profile of Moody Nolan.

Jess Deyo is associate editor for Columbus CEO.