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5G Studio Collaborative’s Humble Beginnings

Scott Lowe and his partners take a small-ego approach to their big projects.
photography courtesy of 5G Studio Collaborative

In May of 2005, Scott Lowe and four partners, most of whom formerly worked for The Beck Group, launched the Dallas-based architecture firm 5G Studio Collaborative. The five guys (thus, 5G) had been seeking more design freedom. So, although they had received promotions and raises and had lucrative careers mapped out, the young men saw their opportunity when a specialty hospital in San Antonio asked them to do a $10 million to $12 million project. “It made no sense for us to leave,” Lowe says. “But we did.”

A month later, Lowe was sitting on the floor outside his office. He had just taken a call informing him that the State of Texas had placed a moratorium on specialty hospitals. Their job was put on hold—possibly indefinitely. Lowe thought, “Man, how in the world am I going to tell my four partners that we just left our jobs, and this job died?” He walked in and broke the news. “After we all panicked, we got ourselves together and said, ‘We can do this.’ ”

The moratorium was lifted 45 days later, and the firm was able to design the hospital. But it was a long month-and-a-half, in which the partners worked their way through their savings and their 401(k)s.

Seven years later, the group is not only surviving, but thriving. It has designed the DRG Concept restaurants downtown (Wild Salsa, Dallas Chop House, Dallas Fish Market, Chop House Burger), the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel, and the recently completed NYLO South Side Hotel. It has acquired another firm, and now has two international offices and one in Atlanta. And the company’s in the black.

The firm now has 30 employees, but the “5Gs” are now four, with two of the original partners leaving and a new one joining. Lowe says some of the most important lessons he learned during his tenure came early on. “You succeed not on your own merits, but you succeed on the people that you come across who desire and want to see you do well,” he says.

In the beginning, the group knocked on a lot of doors. One of those doors belonged to Jack Matthews of Matthews Southwest, a Dallas
developer known locally for his revitalization efforts on the south side of Dallas. Matthews says he understands 5G’s story well. Early in his career, he won a bid to privatize an airport, but that project got canceled because of changes made by the government.

Matthews tapped the architecture firm for his Omni and NYLO Dallas Southside projects. He says he admires Lowe’s and 5G’s non-egotistical approach. “If you can have a smart group of people with low egos,” he says, “you can get a lot done.”