In this age of over emphasis on subjective approaches to forms of knowledge in the design disciplines Alejandro Zaera Polo’s essay is a. Request PDF on ResearchGate | On Jan 1, , Alejandro Zaera-Polo and others published The Politics of the Envelope. A Political Critique of Materialism. Seminal theoretical text to examine: The Politics of the Envelope, Alejandro Zaera-Polo Zeara-Polo’s The Politics of the Envelope is an exposition into the role of.

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The Politics of the Envelope – Alejandro Zaera-Polo (Reading Discussion)

The building envelope is possibly the oldest and most primitive architectural element. The building envelope forms the border, the frontier, the edge, the enclosure and the joint: 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.

Like artificial intelligence and genetics, the building envelope is now a technology at the vortex of the political storm. The envelope exceeds the surface by incorporating a much wider set of attachments. It includes the crust of space affected by the physical construction of the surface, by the scale and dimension of the space contained, by its permeability to daylight and ventilation and by its insulation values and solar-shading capacities. It also involves the space that surrounds the object, its orientation in respect to sun, wind, views, etc.


The envelope has the capacity to re-present, not in the sense to or the architectural critique has accustomed us, but in the ancient political role that articulates the relationships between humans andnon-humans in a common world. The envelope is the surface and its attachments.

There is alejzndro such a thing as a unitary theory of the building envelope in the history of architecture. While just a few decades ago the crucial question for architects was the choice between pitched roofs and flat roofs, today we are considering the choice between the box and the blob.

Alejandro Zaera Polo: The Politics of the Envelope | The Sleep of Rigour

The introduction of certain cladding and roofing technologies, such as curtain walling systems, silicon joints, and plastic waterproofing membranes, has eliminated the need for cornices, corners, pediments, and window reveals.

As far as envelope technology goes, the difference between the roof and the wall has disappeared, eliminating the cornice line as a necessary articulation; the fenestration is no longer a critical building problem and the corner, a singularity derived from construction geometries and property alignments, is also weakening as the limits between private and public fade and the structure of ground ownership becomes challenged by contemporary urban development instruments.

By analyzing the building envelope, we may be able to re-empower the discipline as a truly transformative force in the reorganisation of contemporary power ecologies. As an alternative to historical directionality, this experiment wants to propose an analysis of the political dimensionality of space. The structure of the analysis of building envelopes has been consistently organized into four categories of envelope: Our hypothesis is that every dimensional type can trigger specific technological, social and political effects.


During this experiment we will try to identify the opportunities within the constraints—the attachments—that come with the dimensional specificity alejzndro each envelope typology, and develop prototypes that will be capable to exploit these potentials.

The work zeara be structured by distributing the participants in four groups which will be specialized in each one of the envelope categories. Every group will have to do a basic research on the specific typology, produce some conclusions and make one or several proposals of prototypes that could be implemented in a particular situation.

The purpose of the exercise will be a catalogue of examples and prototypes, to initiate a General Theory of the Building Envelope. Agenda Public events Lecture series Past.

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Lecture 11 January Lecture 17 January Facades and Interiors Peter St John. Lecture 25 January ,