Architectures of Hiding


François Sabourin & Bertrand Rougier

Illustration of undefined

Verdures is a camouflage pattern made specifically for the green spaces of Paris. More precisely, it is mimicry camouflage, a category of commercial pattern popular with hunters that is created by collaging photographs of an ecosystem’s plants. Unlike the more familiar geometric camouflage, mimicry camouflage is a synthetic yet legible representation of a landscape. In other words, it is a type of image that simultaneously shows and hides. This duality is employed in Verdures, where concealment becomes a way to examine and display urban vegetation.


Verdures decomposed in its layers: leaves, branches, trunks, bark and twigs

The Verdures pattern contains Paris’ dominant tree species: London planes, horse chestnuts, little leaf lindens, and field maples, among others. Working like amateur botanists, we composed a photographic herbarium of branches, bark, fruits, and leaves. Specimens were assembled in a continuous pattern where shadows, layers, blurs, and diagonals are used to feign depth and break outlines. The image ends up acting at two ranges: close-up, where one may recognize the city’s plants, and at a distance, where it blends into its environment.

Illustration of Continuous pattern with image seams

Continuous pattern with image seams

Illustration of <em>Verdures</em> Herbarium

Verdures Herbarium

While Verdures represents Paris, only some of the pattern's source images were captured there. Many specimens were instead collected in Norway and Canada, tracing the historical flows of species across urban ecosystems, such as the exportation of horse chestnuts and field maples to North American cities and the importation of American sycamores to Europe.

Illustration of Left: Detail from the tapestry <em>The Unicorn in Captivity</em> <br/> Right: <em>Verdures</em>

Left: Detail from the tapestry The Unicorn in Captivity
Right: Verdures

The title Verdures refers to the genre of Renaissance tapestry of the same name. Alongside their medieval predecessor, the millefleurs, they can be seen as distant ancestors of mimicry camouflage. These objects hid surfaces with a textile cover of repeated plant images and were likely created with the help of herbaria. Like contemporary camouflage patterns, millefleurs and verdures bore a dual purpose: both were concealing elements and visual collections of real and fictive flora.


Verdures was printed on custom garments designed to be alternatively worn by a single person or turned into a shelter.
Photographs by Julie Hrncírová.

Illustration of Garment cut pattern

Garment cut pattern

Illustration of Garment anchor detail

Garment anchor detail

Illustration of Garment opening detail

Garment opening detail

François Sabourin | Schidlowski Emerging Faculty Fellow | College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

| Bertrand Rougier | Architect, Oslo, Norway.

Listen to the full interview.