Moya is one of the District’s top building designers, helping to shape the nation’s capital with a school here, a housing complex there, or a theater over here, not to mention being part of the design team who brought the District’s new soccer stadium, Audi Field, to the middle of it all.
How did a young woman from Colombia who started off working odd jobs in kennels and day cares become owner of Moya Design Partners—whose clients include, city and private partners all helping to shape today’s capital?
“We didn’t come here to fail,” Moya says in an even-keeled voice that seems to roll with the ups and downs that inevitably come with high-stress development in a town like DC, where she says there is always a fire to put out. “There is no other way out but to succeed.”
One way she does it is by facing her fears, she said. The only job she could get when she first came to the U.S. was taking care of dogs in a kennel. Even though she had a phobia of dogs, she gulped and said “sure.”
“It helped me overcome the fear,” Moya says, to the point that she even owned a labrador-golden retriever at one point.
She also delivered pizzas, worked at daycare centers, and usually held two or three jobs at a time to help her parents and siblings make it and go to school. Eventually, she was able to attend Montgomery College at night and started working as an assistant at a design-build firm. She continued working at an architecture firm as she earned her bachelor’s and then master’s degrees in architecture from Catholic University.
After graduating she partnered with architect Michael Marshall to open Marshall Moya Design, a firm that lasted from 2010 to last year. Last September she opened her own firm and officially launched in January of this year, Moya Design Partners, which employs between 15 to 20 people from different parts of the world.
Moya’s clients have included MGM Resorts, D.C. Public Schools, the Howard Theater, the University of the District of Columbia, and the new Entertainment Sport Arena, ESA, which it is the practice facility for the Wizards and the home for the Mystics, coming to Anacostia. In addition, she was part of the team who helped deliver the new Audi Field to D.C. United. Her firm produced the first Plan Unit Development (PUD) application for the stadium and designed interior portions of it, including the team store.
“I’ve always loved all-things design, architecture, and visual communications,” said Moya, who describes her aesthetics as open, sleek and contemporary, adding that the welcoming and open nature of the new soccer stadium is her favorite feature, highlighted by the way you can see inside the bowl and its shape from the outside. “Before you enter you can see the landscape, the soccer fans and their energy; it’s all part of the process of walking up to it and the building revealing before you.”
She said her new firm is focusing more narrowly on projects that promote women and affordable living. One of her company's next developments is designing a 42-unit apartment building in the District to help women and their families who have lived through domestic violence, Moya said.
“You have to listen, take into account their means, and understand what a client really wants or needs, and it takes time to get to that place of understanding,” Moya said. There are always fires, she said, but she loves it because that is life. She also balances work and personal life by being fully cloud-based so she and her team can work from anywhere in the world, including when being away with family or when training for a marathon.
“I used to wonder, is there going to be a week or month when nothing pops?” Moya said. “And the answer is no, and I am fully embracing the journey”
Moya has also been able to integrate herself into deals and creatively find new work. For example, she created a marketing and visual design firm inside her architecture firm to help clients market their projects.
Together with other young contemporaries, she is helping to design the new DC.
“In our own way we’re shaping what DC is now,” Moya said. “Not in a million years did I imagine how my career has shaped. But it’s part of our survival, as immigrants, to make it. We become very resilient people. It’s part of who we are, and however you measure success, you work double, triple hard to get there.