The Princeton Envelope Group (PEG) is a design and research unit at the Princeton University School of Architecture. Headed by Alejandro Zaera-Polo and coordinated by Urtzi Grau. The unit is engaged in a three year research program on the Politics of the Building Envelope the conclusions of which will be published in a forthcoming book by Actar Press, Barcelona+New York.

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The shed is more or less a euphemism for what Sloterdijk’s calls a macro-interior, a climatic island of event and activities.

Though the utility of the Flat Horizontal in a wide range of programmatic applications makes it difficult to classify functionally, it obeys a more or less consistent logic of location and positioning. Its large footprint generally resists density while its associated infrastructure—parking lots, loading docks, and access roads—draw it toward transportation thoroughfares. The organizational logics of the building tend to trump site specificity. Highway access, limited vegetation and large expanses of flat land are privileged, and where topographic variation is encountered, it is overcome with brute force and rendered sufficiently flat for occupation.Through its spatial flexibility the Flat Horizontal typology can accomodate a range of programs, its economic viability is geographically limited, and it resists density and is almost invariably suburban.

One of the first planned communities in the country, Short Hills was the dream of Stewart Hartshorn who purchased 1,500 acres of land in the late 1800s. Throughout the first half of the century, the suburban community grew quickly, and in 1949 the Prudential Insurance Company of America acquired a large tract of land where The Mall at Short Hills now sits. seven years later,B. Altman opened a 130,000-square-foot store on the land and eventually added an additional 50,000 square feet to meet market demands. Local residents continued their demand for expanded retailing and in the early 1960s, a small open-air center opened that included retailers such as FAO Schwarz and Pottery Barn.
The momentum continued as America’s largest Bloomingdale’s premiered on the site in 1967. In 1974,Prudential Insurance Company of America began working with The Taubman Company, The Mall at Short Hills’ current owner. By 1980, the two had completed a two-year, $100 million project to enclose the mall.
The efficiency of this operation has made the Flat Horizontal ubiquitous. In the guise of the shoppingmall and the big-box store it has become the normative space of suburban public life.
The first phase of a major expansion was completed in November 1994 adding a 100,000-square-foot, the next expansion phase was completed in August 1995 adding two anchors — a 137,000 square-foot Neiman Marcus and a 188,000 square-foot Nordstrom — and many new specialty stores.

The tendency to consolidate resources under one roof (the logic of the suburban shopping center) can expand beyond the purely economic drivers of commercial development. Examples from Dronten, Holland (Demeerpaal) to New Jersey High Schools demonstrate the opportunities that the big box offers as a space of assembly and social interaction.While it often operates in service of commerce, the ability of the Flat Horizontal to accomodate programmatic variation makes its useful for a wide range of activities.

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