Mark Magnuson has room to spare.

A first glance of his project list seems to include at least a third of the municipal buildings, financial institutions, churches and schools in Orange County.

Those include designs for the Adult Probation and Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace offices to replace the Ike-damaged structures, and his third school for the Bridge City district.

The under-construction elementary school, targeted for completion in May, 2011, replaces the Ike-damaged Hatton and Sims schools.

“Mark has been great to be in partnership with,” says Bridge City Superintendent Jamey Harrison. “Being a Bridge City resident, he knows the expectations of the community. He’s adamant about seeking input from teachers, principals and the central office staff. The result is a great, quality building that is affordable, maintainable and very user-friendly.”

Growing up in West Orange (he graduated the last year of the Chiefs, 1977, before the merger with Stark High), Magnuson says his parents encouraged an artistic atmosphere.

“My father enjoyed sculpting, painting, performing at Orange community theater, music, writing short stories; and my mother encouraged us to succeed at whatever we set our minds to.

“I believe my design abilities stemmed from experiencing those aspects of my mother and father’s life.”

Early in his teens, he says he well-understood spatial relationships and could visualize three-dimensional spaces. He excelled in drafting courses.

In 1979 he graduated from Lamar with an associate degree in drafting technology, then went on to Texas A&M and a bachelor’s degree in environmental design.

“As an architect I am a problem solver. It is no different than most other problem-solving careers other than we are creating space for people to use. Projects are started with an idea. From that idea we create a design and follow the project through to an end. Solving issues as they come up during the construction phase is enjoyable to me. Every project has different issues and every project is new to me.

“While there are times it is a business and we have to run the office as a business, I still enjoy going to my desk each day solving issues and creating spaces … I like to take my clients thoughts about a project and turn that into a three-dimensional space that is used by hundreds of people.

“I really enjoy educational design. I am trying to create a space where students will enjoy going to school and enhance their learning experience.”

Mark, 51, and his wife Jean have six kids between them. Mark jokingly calls them “The Brady Bunch.”

They are Zach, 26, studying radiology at M.D. Anderson; Chelsea, 23, studying nursing at Lamar; Ciara, 21; studying theater at Lamar; Hannah, 21, who graduated as an esthetician; Chey, 18, a senior at Bridge City High School; and Autumn, 11; a sixth-grader at Somerville Middle School.

“We are proud of their accomplishments,” Magnuson said.

Magnuson established his firm in Bridge City in 2001, after a six-year partnership with Beaumont’s Long-Magnuson Architects. Magnuson is licensed by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners to practice both architecture and interior design in the state of Texas.
Something his friends may not know is that, while at A&M, he served as a volunteer firefighter with Precinct 3, Brazos County.

“I had a roommate and we decided we should help out wherever we could. And we fought several fires while we were there. I was about 24 or 25 then.”

Magnuson served as the 1996 president of the Southeast Texas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and is a member of the Texas Society of Architects. He is or has been active in the past with the Salvation Army of Orange, the Bridge City School Band Boosters and Boy Scouts of America.

He has also been associated with the architectural firms of Milton Bell and Associates and Moore, Stansbury and Vaught.