The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Research Conversations: Olivier Bellflamme

16 November 2021, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

Image: Picture by Olivier Bellflamme, Basaseachi, analogue photograph printed on paper, 2021

MPhil/PhD student Olivier Bellflamme discusses his research into the vernacular architecture of the Sierra Madre in northwestern Mexico, and the work of ethnographer Carl Lumholtz.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Rahil Alipour

An Architect on the Footsteps of Ethnographer Carl Lumholtz

Speaker: Olivier Bellflamme
Supervisors: Prof Murray Fraser and Susanne Kuechler
Guest Panellists: Dr Eva Branscome and Dr Nathaniel Morris, (UCL Dept of History)


This practice-led PhD by Architectural Design examines the vernacular architecture of the Sierra Madre in northwestern Mexico by recreating the journey of the Norwegian ethnographer, Carl Lumholtz, who in 1890 was the first to photograph its building customs. Combining research methods from architectural history and anthropology, the thesis traces the recent history of Sierra Madran cultural knowledge, observing mutations and losses in traditional architectural practices in comparison to those recorded in photographs and other items held in the Lumholtz Archive at the American Museum of Natural History. Extensive fieldwork pursued across remote trails in Mexico will produce a brand new archive that, when completed, will provide cultural testimony both for local people and architects/scholars.

For this PhD Upgrade presentation, Olivier will show some of the material collected during a 4,500-mile journey following in Lumholtz's footsteps, as selected from 740 new photographs, copious hand-drawn maps and sketches, and many anecdotes.


Olivier Bellflamme is a Belgian architect based in London. After working in Mexico City for Frida Escobedo, he graduated from the History and Critical Thinking MA at the Architectural Association in 2018. Three years ago, he founded Lucrèce Project, an art residency programme inviting artists to realise in situ artworks in remote areas around the globe, twice a year before each solstice. This project also includes art exhibitions and publications. After a project on the Parícutin volcano in Mexico, he discovered the 19th century ethnographer Carl Lumholtz, and decided to dedicate a PhD thesis to his work. Today, Bellflamme is working on this thesis about the vernacular architecture of the Western Sierra Madre, by studying the Lumholtz photographic archive and by following his footsteps in Mexico. 

About The Bartlett Research Conversations

The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Research Conversations seminars comprise work-in-progress and upgrade presentations by students undertaking the MPhil/PhD Architectural Design and MPhil/PhD Architectural and Urban History and Theory. All current UCL staff and students are welcome to attend.

Held regularly throughout the academic year, the seminars are attended by the programme directors, Professor Jonathan Hill and Professor Sophia Psarra, PhD Coordinators, Dr. Nina Vollenbröker and Dr Sophie Read, and other PhD supervisors.

Image: Picture by Olivier Bellflamme, Basaseachi, analogue photograph printed on paper, 2021