Words: Meagan Thomas
Photos: Tanya Martineau
When Ryan Lloyd, founder of Echo Architecture, moved with his wife and son from Portland to Colorado Springs, he wasn’t planning to open his own architecture firm. He just wanted to live in a safe, friendly community with good schools for his son to attend. Luckily for the Colorado Springs community, a series of random events and a lot of what Ryan thinks is fate led him to start Echo Architecture - forever changing the design landscape in Colorado Springs.
Making Colorado Springs Home
Ryan spent most of his childhood growing up in the Rocky Mountains, and he knew he wanted to eventually plant his roots in the state. He moved to Fort Collins when he was nine, went to college in Golden and Boulder and lived in Fort Collins for a few more years before finally heading to Portland. When Ryan and his wife first moved to Portland, they planned to be there for graduate school. What started out as a few years in Oregon turned into 10. There they bought a house, had babies and worked, but when Ryan’s son was getting ready to start kindergarten, the issue of moving back to Colorado came to the forefront. From there, fate took the reins.
“Within a few days, an old professor from (Colorado University) called me and offered me a job,” Ryan said. It sounded like an interesting job, and after mentioning to a neighbor that he might be selling his house, another neighbor came over the following day and made an offer to buy it. With a job offer in Denver and an offer on the house, Ryan knew it was too good to pass up. Soon, he and his wife flew to Denver to begin house hunting. But It didn’t take long for them to realize they didn’t want to move to Denver.
“We wanted to be in the mountains, be in the sun, [be where there’s] better schools, and Denver didn’t have any of those things,” Ryan said. “So through a series of strange events and a lot of prayer - and just rash decisions - we moved to Colorado Springs.” Taking a leap fully on faith, with no job, no house and really no good reason, the Lloyd family just went for it and decided to call Colorado Springs their new home. Little did they know the risk of moving here would work out in their favor - as well as the rest of the city’s - as Ryan began designing many of Colorado Springs’ new and popular establishments.
“We really felt like we were supposed to come to Colorado Springs, and it was just part of that journey,” he said.
Ryan’s road to becoming an architect wasn’t a straight one. He’d considered architecture when he was a kid, but as he got older he never thought of it as an actual option for a career path. In high school, he was good at math and science and decided that he’d go to college to become an engineer. He only applied to one school, Colorado School of Mines, and was accepted. “In hindsight, I’m blown away I didn’t have a fallback [school],” Ryan said. Within a few weeks of attending Mines, he realized engineering wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life, and that’s when architecture popped into his mind again. He applied to the University of Colorado and got in. After finishing his freshman year at Mines, he transferred to Boulder. There, he instantly felt he was in the right place.
“The architecture school was super heavy on studio and design studio courses,” Ryan said. “I really applied myself for the first time ever in school and just loved it and did pretty well at it and never looked back.” While living in Portland, Ryan worked for Surround Architecture, Inc. That’s when Ryan said he felt he had his first big architecture victory while helping to design a mortgage lender’s office. The client had access to free wood, so they built the inside out of stacked two-by-fours. The exposed, heavy timber utilized outdoor aspects of the region, and Ryan combined them with the existing building to make everything blend into one beautiful space.
"[Surround Architecture] let me run with it, and it just turned out really great,” he said.
Ryan’s time at Surround continued to fuel his passion and knowledge of design, which helped him to land a job in Colorado Springs in September 2008 with BVH Architects. Unfortunately, his career with the firm was cut short because of the economic hardship facing many companies that year. In February 2009, just days after Ryan and his wife put an offer in to buy a house, BVH announced that it would be closing its Colorado Springs office, still staying in business in other areas. Thinking on his feet, Ryan found a way to secure his future in architecture in the city. “Being a firm that was staying in business, they couldn’t just shut down and tell all their Colorado clients ‘sorry,’ so I talked them into hiring me as a co-architect to work as a consultant to finish all their projects in Colorado,” he explained.
In April 2009, just a couple of months after the announcement to close the Colorado Springs BVH office was announced, Echo Architecture was born. Being able to start one’s own company and be one’s own boss sounds appealing, but it’s also terrifying. Ryan had only been in Colorado Springs for four months and didn’t have any billed work, didn’t know anybody or have his own clients. He had nothing to put on his website because he hadn’t done anything in Colorado. Add that to the fact that he’d never run a business, and it was a lot to handle. In a smart move by Ryan, he wrote all of the company’s furniture, computers and software codebooks into his severance package.
“I had no startup cost and a solid year of built-in work in Colorado for them under my own name, so that was huge,” Ryan said.”That alleviated a lot of my fears because I basically had a great job for a year.” As Ryan worked on the former BVH projects, he began to build his Colorado Springs portfolio, and soon enough he found more clients. Word spread about his business because of Ryan’s commitment to every single project. “I think the thing that is different about what I do and what Echo Architecture does [is that] we try,” Ryan said. “Every project that comes in we push to produce the best product we can for the budget - to be innovative, be fresh and do something new and exciting.”
Ryan has observed a lot of architects or companies who do the bare minimum, get a permit and are done. At Echo, the company uses its design services to go above and beyond for every client. Two big parts of being an exceptional architect is forming a strong relationship with the client and understanding how surroundings can play into the space being designed. “I try very hard to form a relationship with my client and actually listen to them and hear what they’re saying and take their personality and apply that to the design,” Ryan said.
Ryan also allows the building to inform himself or the client. He uses the outdoors - views, where the sun sits, wind and even foot traffic - to build a design based off of the environment. He likes to use raw materials such as wood, concrete and steel rather than paint or distress it. His designs tend to have a “green” component, and while it’s intentional, designing in an eco-friendly manner isn’t something out of the norm for certain projects: It’s an important part of all well-designed buildings. “I try to specialize in good architecture, and [being green] is a huge component of that,” Ryan said. “If it’s not sustainable and it doesn’t take advantage of natural light and wind, and the energy that’s free, or views or space - it’s all tied together.”
Echo Architecture’s mission to make every project the best it can be is slowly changing from making every project the best it can be to making Colorado Springs the best it can be. In the beginning, Ryan took 100 percent of the jobs that came to him, but now he’s able to choose and be sure that the client and location are a good fit, which really makes a difference in the effect his projects can make on the community.
Ryan’s recent project for a local nonprofit, The Dream Center of Colorado Springs, turned a former rundown apartment complex into a space for homeless mothers to live. The metaphor of rehabilitating a building that was on its last leg into a beautiful, state of the art building for women who are also trying to turn around their own lives isn’t lost on him. “When you go in, you don’t feel like you’re in subsidized housing. You feel like you’d want to live there,” he said. “We wanted to not only provide them with a place to stay, but we wanted to give them dignity - and we can do that through design.”
The power of design is important to Ryan, and although some of his projects help the needy, he also hopes to use the power of design to change some of the lifestyle in Colorado Springs. A good example of this is with his work on Wild Goose Meeting House. It’s a project he’s proud of - not just because it turned out well for the client - but because it’s providing a place that downtown Colorado Springs didn’t have previously. He hopes to continue to be a part of more projects like this. “Our built environment should match our natural environment,” Ryan said. “We have the best climate ever; We have Garden of the Gods, we have Pikes Peak, we have Red Rock Canyon, and it’s perfect. Geographically, we couldn’t be in a better spot. And then you look at our built environment and it’s the worst … so we should match our natural environment.”
Through design, he’s beginning to inspire change in the Colorado Springs community, and he hopes that the value on design is felt in the city.
However, Ryan believes that changes to the culture of Colorado Springs really comes down to to planning more than architecture. The public will and political will for things like better public transportation, making the town more bicycle and pedestrian friendly and changes in zoning for certain areas is what’s going to make a difference in for many residents of the city. As these changes begin to occur, the city can move forward in other areas. The grassroots movement of craft coffee, craft beer and local food and goods is one of those areas that is growing quickly, and many of Ryan’s clients are a part of it. He is excited about projects like the expansion of Iron Bird Brewing and the rehab of Lincoln Elementary as a concept similar to Ivywild School. He likes that he gets to think of places he likes to go, help recreate them and then visit them again and again.
“So often people say, ‘This doesn’t look like it should be in Colorado Springs, it’s way too cool.’ I totally appreciate that, but I also want people to stop saying that, because we deserve the coolest things ever,” Ryan said.
4 S Wahsatch Ave., #120
Colorado Springs, CO 80903