Camouflage patterns in the animal kingdom are the outcome of genetics, natural selection and the physical conditions of habitat – creatures mutate to ‘become’ their surroundings. We are interested in this process of becoming in architecture, one that questions the space we perceive (through illusion) and also our perception of those within it.
A Catalogue of Effects
Our investigation began by developing a critical understanding both of pattern-making and its associated effects. Presented with a range of naturally occurring camouflage patterns, each unit member explored pattern as a device for spatial and material approaches. Iterations evolved using a wide range of camouflage techniques from dazzle to coincident disruptive patterning, counter-shading and mimicry. Developed initially as two-dimensional patterns that featured false perspective, distortion or movement, these were later transformed into an array of small-scale surface and volumetric fabrications with each model evaluated according to spatial and tectonic potential. The studies culminated in an exhibition, A Catalogue of Effects, launched in the AA Back Members’ Room. Bringing together individual research as a unit-wide taxonomy of camouflage devices, this speculative material was then used to distort and question the scale of the room and to provide a setting for the work to be displayed.
Responding to Habitat
With Soho as the backdrop, the unit examined the diversity of uses and users as a context into which new building skins, morphologies and spatial organisations were nestled. Each final project has sought to position itself carefully within its setting, with patterns modulating in response to local conditions or movement. Some agendas focused on adjacencies as a way to orientate programmes – using mimicry to create illusions of the familiar. Some enlisted common material systems such as brickwork, transformed with polychromatic patterning and distorted bonding. Others favoured an anamorphic approach, dissolving the distinction between existing surfaces and the building itself.