Architectures of Hiding

François Sabourin & Bertrand Rougier


Verdures is part of an ongoing investigation of the relationship between landscape and camouf|age. Mimicry camouf|age is a particular kind of concealment pattern that has become widely used by hunters. It achieves visual dissimulation by combining photorealistic images of plants that can be found in a particular ecosystem during a specific season. Mimicry camouf|age is an image with multiple roles: at once a synthetic representation of a landscape at a distinct moment, it is also, with its concealment of hunters through clothing or shelters, a device for the manipulation of an environment.

Verdures is a camouf|age for the green spaces of Paris during mid-fall. The pattern is composed of the city’s dominant tree species: London planes, horse chestnuts, little leaf lindens, and field maples. However, only some of the source images were captured in Paris. Many specimens were collected in Oslo and Montréal, 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. Working like the professional camouf|age makers, who in turn proceed a bit like botanists, we assembled a herbarium of bark, fruit, and leaves. These were then arranged into a continuous pattern that incorporates painterly techniques like sfumato and chiaroscuro to feign depth and break up forms.

Like other mimicry camouf|age patterns, ours plays multiple roles. Printed on clothing or textile, it may “naturalize” the built environment, obscure activities, and enable new modes of negotiating the city landscape. The pattern is printed onto ponchos designed to be worn by a single person, buttoned together to form large shelters, or fixed to a wall as a tapestry.

At the Architecture of Hiding symposium, Verdures takes the shape of a hung shelter, assembled from multiple ponchos. Taken out of its ecological context, the pattern gains an ornamental quality reminiscent of medieval mille-f|eurs tapestries.

Keywords: concealment, camouflage, hunting, pattern

FRANÇOIS SABOURIN is the 2021-22 Schidlowski Emerging Faculty Fellow at the Kent State University College of Architecture and Design. BERTRAND ROUGIER is an architect living in Oslo, Norway. Together, they have been exploring the relationship between design and landscape through photography, installations, and publications. In 2019, they exhibited an earlier version of Verdures for the Pli Public Workshop 01 at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris, where they were awarded the Prix Pli, and in 2021, they will continue this research at an artist residency in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Their collaborative work has been exhibited at Université Laval, Université de Montréal, la Maison de l’architecture, and published in the journal PLAT.

See the Verdures exhibit →