Enhancing Lives Through Design

The Horizon Award recognizes alumni who have graduated within the past 15 years and have attained great success in their profession or have been engaged in outstanding community service.

Story by Nicole Thom-Arens | September 16, 2021

Lance Cayko ’07, ’08 from Trenton, North Dakota, and Alex Gore ’07, ’08, ’11 from Rochester, Minnesota, met during their second year as architecture majors at NDSU. While they didn’t initially hit it off, the two classmates soon realized they each had qualities to complement the other, and by their third year, the go-getters were working together on all the projects they could and earned the title “Renaissance Team” from Professor Darryl Booker.

By the time they graduated, Lance and Alex knew they’d someday run a business together, but first they went their separate ways with Lance landing in Boulder, Colorado, and Alex in New York City. Then the 2008 recession hit. Both junior architects found themselves out of work. Alex returned to NDSU and earned his construction management degree. By 2010, architecture and construction industries across the country were still struggling, so he joined Lance in Colorado, renting the apartment above him, and the two founded F9 Productions.

“NDSU showed us that the answers are always out there,” Alex said. “If you boil something down to the fundamentals and then research through books, through history, through anything, you can come up with a good solution that solves the problem.”

The company has steadily grown as an architecture, construction, and development firm in Longmont, Colorado from the co-founders to a staff of 14. In 2016, Lance and Alex won the Architizer award for Architecture and Living Small popular vote for their tiny home, Atlas, the build of which was featured on season one, episode 14, of HGTV’s Tiny House Big Living.

“One of the big reasons we have been successful has to do with our generation,” Lance said. “We’re a millennial-led and millennial-hired firm. We gravitate toward using the internet so much, especially for marketing. That was one of the early things we did right from the get-go. No other architect was online, treating it like a business online.”

Being business savvy allowed them to earn top ratings, becoming the highest-rated firm for customer satisfaction in Colorado. They’ve also positioned themselves to build their own projects the way they want, including their new business headquarters. Their education at NDSU taught them the balance between the science and art of architecture to enhance lives through design.

“Architecture is not just art. It’s not just science. That has become so critical to what we do as a design build firm,” Lance said. “Being respectful of the science that goes into a building — all the structural engineering, all the mechanical, the plumbing — but at the same time having a balance and bringing the art to it is what has allowed us to become an international, award-winning architecture firm that people seek to hire to enhance their lives through a design.”

As they’ve grown the business, Lance and Alex strive to empower the people they hire. They pride themselves on developing employees and growing them into leaders to add to the fabric of professionals in architecture.

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