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.


One of the most frequently used terms in the media regarding architecture is “iconic.” Iconic architecture is supposed to engage the public and represent a vibrant urban environment, as opposed to merely a program. The building envelope is the primary depository of iconicity. In some cases, iconic buildings may represent a corporation or even a political regime, like the Ryugyong Hotel or the Petronas Towers. Alternative possibilities to the manipulation of iconographies is a monumental approach in which the building’s envelope becomes identifiable through the mobilization of the monumental. Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, The Guggenheim Museum, Disney Hall, Burj Dubai, Beijing Olympic Stadium and Watercube are alternative examples of the manipulation of the envelope to manufacture an identity.