It’s always difficult to be a young architect. But Françoise N’Thépé and Aldric Beckmann, founders of Paris-based firm Beckmann-N’Thépé, say the challenges are especially acute in France, due to a strongly established hierarchy and a conservative outlook on experimentation, especially toward those without much experience. “People don’t want their money to be spent by ‘amateurs,’ ” says N’Thépé. The situation is even more difficult for her, since she is a woman and a minority (she was born in Cameroon). “Yes, I sometimes feel myself as an exception,” she says.
N’Thépé studied at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris (she originally wanted to be an interior designer, but amazingly she signed up at the wrong school!), where she studied with French architects Odile Decq, Paul Virilio, and Frédéric Borel. She worked for French/German firm LIN. Beckmann, born in Paris, studied at the Ecole d’Architecture Paris la Seine, and worked for architects François Seigneur, Will Alsop, and Jean Nouvel. The two met at Seigneur’s office, where N’Thépé was freelancing.
Their first big break came when they won the Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes Award, a major prize organized by the French Ministry of Culture, in 2001. The requests and contacts that came after this allowed them to formally start their new firm the following year.
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