19 March 2019


Read Time 5 mins

COINS Grand Challenge Q & A: François Duchamp

We talk to last year’s Grand Challenge Undergraduate Runner up, 24 year old François Duchamp, whose idea for BAUKÜNST: Empowering Cities By Architecture was entered jointly with Corentin Favreau. Francoise explains how being nominated runner up has helped him and what inspired his idea. 

What are you doing now?
I’m currently completing my final year of studies in Lyon, France, leading to an undergraduate degree in architecture.  


How did you come up with your Grand Challenge idea?
I actually came up with the first idea of Baukünst in the beginning of 2018. At the time I was enrolled in a one year exchange program in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I remember being totally mind blown about the total anarchy and the spatial inequalities of this metropolis. Besides that, I quickly spotted around me how important it was, whether they were either citizens, architects, developers or elected officials. Then I realized how hard, complex and exploded the process of making a qualitative sustainable city was. From these initial thoughts came the idea of an online platform gathering those people together and empowering them by giving them the tools they needed to be more efficient and create better cities. At this point, I reached out to my very good friend Corentin Favreau and asked him if he wanted to join me on the project. We started working right away. 

What inspired you to get involved in this area?
Today, the majority of world population already live in cities and this number will reach 80% of humanity by 2050. Cities will be a BIG DEAL in the years to come. We will need tools to manage them and plan this exponential growth to ensure world’s metropolis continue to be liveable and sustainable places. We need to enable great ideas to be realised, and use both the collective intelligence of people and the fantastic data available today, to act in the real world. 

Has anyone in particular been an influence?
I could cite a bunch of people that influenced me throughout the process.  As strange as it seems, first of them would probably be Sir. Winston Churchill. His extravagant personality, his work ethic and his famous motto ‘Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm’ had a great influence on me.

What does the Award mean to you?
Receiving the award was such a big thing to me, as it really made me proud and confident about the work that I had done with my partner Corentin. It was already a huge honour to be shortlisted and to be flown to Texas for the Grand Finale, but winning a prize was really unexpected and an immense emotion. 

How would you describe the experience?
Honestly, I think it was really one of the most crazy and intense experience I ever had. First came the long weeks working on the project, it was intense but also super interesting. Then came the Grand Finale, flying half the globe to present your idea to leading industry professionals, and to be able to exchange ideas with those people was an outstanding experience.

What are your plans?
My first priority right now is to graduate from school. In parallel, Corentin and I are working on the Baukünst project. The idea is to quickly release a beta product with basic features and improve it step-by-step. We have big ambitions for Baukünst but we are conscious of the work ahead...

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date / what are you most proud of?
When I look back, I think what makes me the most proud of is the capacity of turning an idea I had in my head into a concrete project, and then presenting it to the world. Even if it’s just the beginning of the adventure, I feel very proud about achieving this first step.

Why did you enter the COINS Grand Challenge?
I entered the COINS grand challenge because it is one of the very few competitions focusing on the intersection between built environment and innovation in such a relevant and openway. It was also a fantastic way for me to expose my idea to leading construction industry professionals.

Why would you recommend that people enter the 2019 Grand Challenge?
I think it’s such a great opportunity to test your idea. But not only that, it really gives you perspective and knowledge about the construction industry. This is something that I really lacked in my studies for example. Moreover, I really liked the fact that we did get to meet with the other shortlisted entrants at the Grand Finale. They were so many different backgrounds and such fantastic projects! For those reasons (and many others), I wouldn’t hesitate one second to recommend people to take part in the 2019 COINS Grand Challenge!

How has the COINS Grand Challenge helped you?
I think the main thing the COINS Grand challenge has given me is confidence. I feel so grateful to the people that took time and energy to listen to my ideas and try to help me in the development process. It makes me confident about the project, my ability to communicate and further develop it. COINS brings you that credibility that you might lack when you’re still a student and don’t necessarily have a lot of significant references.

And finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a big hip-hop fan. I usually spend quite a lot of time keeping me aware of what’s coming out, both in the American and French scene. I also love to grab my skateboard and my camera (along with my earpods!) and go on city explorations. Of course, as any regular French guy, heaven consists for me in spending hours with my friends at a café terrasse with a glass of wine!

Could your idea improve the construction industry or the built environment?  The 2019 COINS Grand Challenge is an opportunity to win funding of over £100k, business support and more.

COINS Grand Challenge is a global competition to support innovation within the construction industry. Open to anyone with ideas to improve construction - from reducing costs, increasing efficiency, improving sustainability, safety, quality or compliance throughout the built life cycle. The challenge has two entry categories, professional and undergraduate

Last year, 11 finalists represented 7 countries and a wide variety of ideas. The 2019 COINS Grand Challenge is now open for entries, with the deadline entries being 12 April – find out more and enter online at www.coins-grandchallenge.com



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