For Marvin “Buddy” Ragland, AIA, BArch 1980, the Baton Rouge and LSU community remain a top priority in both his work and personal life. Ragland’s close ties, especially to the College of Art & Design, are evident in his design projects and philanthropy.
As a principal at Coleman Partners Architects, LLC, in Baton Rouge, Ragland has worked on projects such as the recently completed E. J. Ourso College of Business complex and is well underway in planning the overhaul of the university’s Patrick F. Taylor Hall, formerly known as CEBA.
Coleman Partners, whose five out of six principals are alumni of LSU’s School of Architecture, provides designs for all building types but places special emphasis on hospitality design, educational design, office, and adaptive re-use design and master planning. The firm’s in-house services include architecture, master planning, and interior design in addition to a wide variety of consultant services. With branch offices in New Orleans and Houston, the firm serves a wide geographical area, including the Gulf Coast, West Coast, Caribbean Basin, and the Northeast United States. The geographical and aesthetic variety makes Ragland’s job quite exciting.
“I love what I do here because I am able to offer such direct services to my clients, and I still have time to volunteer within the community,” Ragland said. “Being able to work in such a broad arena and with such a diverse range of project types and clients is just awesome.”
The North Louisiana native remembers how he first became interested in architecture. “I was in junior high when my dad hired an architect to design our home, and I got to watch as the process unfolded,” he said. Ragland witnessed the meetings and planning firsthand, and when it came time to start building, he was hooked.
“I think it was around the tenth grade when I realized architecture was definitely the career for me,” Ragland continued—a plan he remained committed to until fruition.
Ragland has been with Coleman Partners since 1984 and became a principal in 1990. As such, he negotiates and writes many of the contracts for the firm’s design services, mediating solutions to any problems that may arise. Ragland is also responsible for developing and maintaining client relationships, a task that he thoroughly enjoys.
Some recent projects that Ragland has managed include the master planning and building of the Baton Rouge Community College as well as renovations and additions to the Bon Carre Business Center. He also managed the renovations of Hotel Indigo and the historic Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center, which was converted into a 93-room hotel downtown.
As for upcoming local projects, Ragland noted that the firm is almost finished with construction documents for the renovation of LSU’s College of Engineering complex, Patrick F. Taylor Hall. “It’s a consolidation of all the schools in the College of Engineering. Our plans will strip the original structure down to its bare bones and add about 100,000 square feet—a complete overhaul,” Ragland said. Construction should begin shortl with an estimated completion date of 2017.
Ragland and the firm are also working on the design for the Water Institute of the Gulf, which will be located on the new Water Campus near downtown Baton Rouge. The 40,000-plus-square-foot project, located on the river batture, is currently programmed to include a destination restaurant, exhibition and conference spaces, structured parking, and office space.
Internationally, the firm is in the early stages of designing another Ritz-Carlton hotel, this one in the Turks and Caicos.
In addition to being an active participant in the American Institute of Architects, Ragland has served as guest juror and lecturer at the LSU School of Architecture and is a member of the School of Architecture’s Professional Advisory Board. Recently, Ragland presented a Brown Bag Lecture at the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio and spoke to a pro-practice class in the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture.
He is grateful for everything the College of Art & Design has given him and insists the School of Architecture was the catalyst for developing and furthering his education and practice for his career in architecture.
Ragland particularly enjoys the culture of design schools, specifically, how the learning style differs from that of other disciplines. “The method and engagement of learning is just fascinating,” he explained. “There is something unique about the way you learn how to synthesize information early on in a design program that is very helpful.”
Ragland encourages students to appreciate their design education and to take a moment to realize the powerful lessons they are learning in school. He contends that the unique lessons of how to solve design problems are important ones. ”Your services will be rendered upon people you may never see, but you are still responsible.”
Ragland and his firm make it a point to give back to the LSU College of Art & Design in order to ensure current students receive the best of the best just as he did. Coleman Partners sponsors an esteemed guest lecturer once a year for the School of Architecture. “Since the majority of our partners are alumni of the School of Architecture, we feel it’s only right to give back as the school has given us so much.”
Whether it is through his time, education, internships, or philanthropy, the alumnus is committed to making sure the students in the College of Art & Design receive the knowledge to ensure they have what it takes to create a lasting impact in design.
“I have been doing this a long time, and I am more and more convinced my education at LSU was my spring board to what I believe to be a successful and enjoyable career.”