Back in early 2008 Al Gore and Lance Cayko (the founders of F9) were graduating with master’s degrees in Architecture from North Dakota State University. The duo taking the top two architecture awards in their graduating class, were off to pursue their bright futures ahead. Al moved to New York after accepting an intern position with the world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind (designer of the New World Trade Center, Denver Art Museum, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin) and Lance was headed south to join Colorado’s young firm of the year, Studio H:T in Boulder, Colorado.
Back on a balmy graduation night at a downtown bar in Fargo, surrounded by family and friends, Lance and Al imagined a day far in the future where they might meet up 10-15 years later to start their own design firm together. They had teamed up on several design projects throughout their five years of schooling with much success and winning several awards. Their success had also fostered a great friendship and the two dreamed of continuing a working partnership far into the future. What they were not dreaming about, however, was the economic downturn to come.
Cue the 2008 housing and stock-market crash which left architects scrambling for work and struggling to keep their current projects alive. Al witnessed this recession from Libeskind’s 17th floor studio space overlooking Wall Street., a mere two blocks away. Tales of massive firm layoffs and project funds drying up crept into the minds of Al and Lance and they soon decided to prepare themselves for what could eventually be their own layoffs. Lance began creating speculative 3D models as an alternate source of income while Al taught himself website creation and marketing strategies.
Al was the first to be let go, he and 10 other colleagues walked out of the office on a Friday afternoon in February. Full of despair and a bit lost, he headed home ironically on his routine Wall Street subway route. The following fall Al returned to school in Fargo to pursue a masters degree in construction management. 8 months later Lance was laid off and with a family to support there was little time to waste. With Al now back in school, Lance started to build up his own base of clients by first relying on his construction experience and then on the 3D modeling knowledge gained through work and on his own. After the 2009 school year Alex joined the firm to complete their vision a mere 10 years earlier than expected. He soon helped in landing his own architectural and graphic design clients.
Their business is lean based on the current economic conditions and they couple the advanced knowledge in CAD technologies to put them at the forefront of the industry while also allowing for superior flexibility in terms of speed and fee structuring. With little to no overhead F9 is able to offer extremely competitive rates, on average, 25% cheaper than similar freelance designers and up to 50% less than small to medium sized architecture firms while still being able to produce design work that is above or on par with other design firms in Colorado. Their name, F9 Productions, stems from a keyboard “hotkey” used to produce the photo-realistic portfolio renderings of the virtual models found on their website, www.f9productions.com, and is a reflection of the firm’s embrace of new CAD technologies.
“We believe we’re at the forefront of design in the 21st century and embrace that. A lot of old-school designers think that the pen and traditional model are the only way to design. That’s just not us. Our generation feels at home in virtual reality. Today you can experience and manipulate un-built space on a whim thus enhancing the clients experience and giving the designer the ability to test multiple options much more quickly and cheaply. To us this is truly fluid design and that’s why we embrace it.”
Currently they are working on a large custom home, a small clinic, multiple virtual-modeling contracts, and several graphic design projects. The two now operate out of Longmont Coloardo, and have projects spanning the entire front range including: Boulder, Denver, Golden, and Colorado Springs. They are now celebrating the release of their recreated website, F9Productions.com, and continuing to forge ahead.