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.


The building envelope is possibly the oldest and most primitive architectural element. It materializes the separation of the inside and outside, natural and artificial; it demaractes private property, land ownership and social exclusion; when it becomes a facade, the envelope operates also as a representational device, in addition to its crucial environmental and territorial roles. The building envelope forms the border, the frontier, the edge, the enclosure and the joint: it is loaded with political conent. At a time when energy and security concerns have replaced an earlier focus on circulation and flow as the contents of architectural expression, the building envelope becomes a key political subject.

This is no such thing as a unitary theory of the building envelope in the history of architecture. Previous embodiments of envelope’s theory have addressed either representation or construction technologies. The traditional split between wall and roof construction has precented the discipline to look at the envelope in a more holistic way, as a single object of analysis.

The Princeton Envelope Group aims to develop a general theory of the contemporary building envelope. The research will be tested through symposia, publications, and the production of concrete architectural proposals with a prototypical format tested in case study scenarios. The researched is aimed to produce a series of prototypes to explore the global aspects of envelope design.