BoBo is an architects’ practice with offices in Montmartre, Paris and Totnes, Devon run by Robert and Henry Beech Mole. We speak to Henry…
How did BoBo develop a client base in France?
The practice was started in a small village on Dartmoor by my father in 1991, and grew a reputation for designing private houses across the South-West of England. Occasionally, clients either had or were planning projects in France, and asked if he could help. These projects were often holiday homes with rather similar briefs to their homes on the ‘English Riviera’. Meanwhile, I had spent several years working in Paris for a large French practice. Over dinner, one evening in a little brasserie called ‘Le Village’ on rue des Abbesses in Montmartre, he and I were discussing this emerging link between the existing work in the West Country and potential projects in France. Our office in Paris has been just around the corner from Le Village ever since, and Abbesses (our little pocket of Montmartre) gives its name to the practice, Bobo (Bourgeois-bohème) a label often used to describe the local residents of this very particular part of Paris.
Why are you based in Paris?
I have always had a personal affinity with the city, my family are half French, we speak French and English interchangeably, and often went on holiday here. I moved to Paris in 2011 to work in a French studio and ever since have had a long term affiliation with Paris. A spiritual pull that this was the place to be and to live. Most importantly though, being in Paris allows us to be close to our suppliers and manufacturers, and the transport connections allow us to take on projects across the whole country, in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we were not located in the capital. I always want to go and see the property or site for development, and undertake a survey myself to get a real understanding of the constraints and opportunities involved, and from Paris this is never more than a couple of hours on the train.
Where are some of your current projects based, just in Paris?
At the moment we have quite a variety of projects across the country: from a tiny “airbnb-style” apartment within the conical tower of a former Chateaux in the beautifully picturesque town of Senlis next to the Chantilly forest; a 4-bedroom private residence in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the Côte d’Azur; to (what will be) a new 7 storey Parisian apartment block on a infill site near Canal Saint Martin.
What type of property would you love to work on?
All properties are different, particularly across France. It is the combination of regional characteristics, local planning laws, use of local materials, and various epochal styles that produce the uniquely beautiful towns and villages found throughout the country. Our architecture always reinforces these characteristics. We always want to create high-quality, innovative architecture whether it is a restoration or a new construction, but we do this by combining traditional materials and local craft techniques with the latest technology to create beautiful and timeless buildings that will be fit for the future.
Do your clients mostly come from the UK?
Many of our clients naturally tend to be Anglophones, many from the UK, some from North America, some from the rest of the world. The common thread is that our clients normally want to have an open and simple dialogue between them and us about their project. The most important relationship isn’t between architect and planner, or client and builder, it is always the rapport between client and architect that makes a successful project. This is the person who will be listening to your requirements, posing the right questions, finding out what you want from your project, where language and communication are paramount. Your architect will then be able to distil these requirements into a design scheme, where from then on the project is communicated as a set of drawings. This is where your architect can then manage a smooth and stress-free ‘turn-key’ service until you are ready to move in to your new building. Perhaps another similarity between us and our clients is that we tend to share a love with France and its culture.
What aspects about your job do you enjoy the most?
Occasionally, I am reminded that sometimes architects have a less than perfect reputation, I have often heard that there has been a tendency for people to feel as if a piece of architecture, or a design scheme, has been imposed on them by their architect, rather than their architect truly listening to their brief and requirements. The most interesting part of the process for me, whether the client has a fixed idea or not, is trying to properly define their brief, budget, requirements, and to lay out the complex process of procuring building-work, fully, clearly, and in a straightforward manner. The aim is then to try and exceed their expectations; to produce something that turns out to be the perfect solution. Alongside this, I would have to say that it is the travel involved. One of my favourite projects at the moment is an incredible ski chalet we are developing in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains in the shadow of Mont Blanc. It is one of the most exceptionally beautiful landscapes in France and, luckily, I am taken there very often for site visits and convivial planning meetings with the local Mayor.
For a free consultation on your potential project or any questions about procuring building work in France or the UK please email with a brief outline of your query with the form below
T: +33 (0) 9 70 40 64 67