UDC: We ARE Black History: Michael Marshall
UDC: We ARE Black History
Alumnus – Architect and Designer of UDC’s Student Center
Even at the young age of 11, Michael Marshall knew that his destiny was to be an architect. Growing up in NE Washington and Prince George’s County, the son of a DC Public Schools bus driver and a housekeeper, Marshall had aspirations to be the first in his family to go to college.
In high school, he worked at a car dealership, thinking that he would stay there and work his way up to earn money for college. It was good plan that changed during a pivotal 30 seconds after hearing a radio advertisement for open enrollment at the Washington Technical Institute for Architectural Engineering Technology. Intrigued, he attended the event and was overwhelmed at the prospect of the opportunity to attend college and follow his dreams.
The Architectural Engineering program at Washington Technical Institute was the precursory two-year associate’s degree program at UDC. The event provided him with his first introduction to professional people of color. “I found much more than I imagined,” Marshall said. “I found a support system.”
He recalls meeting Clarence Pearson, who was the Chair of the Architecture Department at that time. Pearson would do much more than expose Marshall to the discipline of architecture. He offered him an internship in his firm, took him out and bought him his first business suit.
After attending the two-year program in 1977, Marshall earned scholarships to The Catholic University of America to finish his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Architecture, and then to Yale, where he earned his Master’s degree in Architecture.
The highly technical training he received at the beginning of his educational journey served him well. As opposed to focusing intently on design, the UDC program at that time was about building a strong technical foundation for entry-level positions in architectural offices.
Years later, in 1981, he worked as an intern at an architecture firm in San Francisco. Firm principals were more impressed with his drafting and drawing skills, the skills he honed at UDC, than anything else. “They were not used to seeing that type of technical skill in entry-level architects,” Marshall said.
Always connected to his UDC roots, he came back and taught drawing classes while a student at Catholic. Marshall revisited in 1992 to teach once again. But perhaps his most impressive contribution took more than four decades to realize. After working for a number of local firms, Marshall set up his own practice in DC, the city he loved. He ran his architecture firm for 22 years, until forming a partnership with Paola Moya in 2010 to launch Marshall Moya Design. Together, they have worked on some of the city’s highest-profile projects, including the Howard Theatre, the Chuck Brown Memorial, and a number of DC public elementary schools and mixed-use developments.
Currently, the firm has worked on the new DC United Stadium and the Entertainment and Sports Arena, and the new Wizards practice facility and Mystics home court in Congress Heights.
But perhaps the project that has brought him the most pride is the one closest to his heart. Marshall came back to design the $63 million UDC Student Center, in collaboration with CannonDesign. It is the first new building on the Van Ness campus in more than 40 years.
“We need to come back and give back. The university needs us. We need to give back with our talents, our services, our knowledge. We need to be here,” Marshall said.
He also designed a meditation garden adjacent to the Student Center to provide students with a tranquil place for study and reflection.
As a student, Marshall was taught and mentored by Professor Clarence Pearson who continues to teach in the School of Architecture at UDC.