Case Design for Interior Courtyards in Urban House
Now, John Hill, an urban planning architect comes with idea about the case for interior courtyard that can bring the light and air of the outdoors to the heart of your home.
In a Big city, we often found a home design with its front and back yards, interior courtyards — spaces defined by walls on four sides — may seem unnecessary. Certainly they are of value in urban conditions, where open space around the house may be nonexistent, but they offer delights to residents in all contexts — delights that should make these spaces much more common than they are.
First and foremost, interior courtyards bring sunlight to parts of a house that might not otherwise be blessed with it. Combined with thoughtful landscaping, these spaces can seem like a sanctuary, a private patch of ground and sky that reinforces our connection with the outside world. Following are some examples of interior courtyards that may make them a necessity in your next project.
The Cube House project in San Francisco, California by John Maniscalco is a transformation of a late-19th-century Victorian townhouse, well documented. The architect’s description of the existing house — “a historically protected façade, abnormally long building footprint, and zero lot-line configurations” — points to the insertion of an interior courtyard to make a “light-filled home for a family of four.”
The fairly open living area is oriented about this two-story atrium open to the sky. It wraps circulation, both horizontally and vertically, about the glassed-in space. Sliding doors and stepping stones offer a third route across the house, through this outdoor space.
Living and dining spaces are situated on either side of this interior courtyard. To think of this deep floor plate without this void is to imagine darkness instead of light. This outdoor space may take up valuable floor area, but the living spaces are so much nicer via the filtering of sunlight into them that it’s definitely worth it.
Upstairs, the positive aspects of this two-story atrium are even more pronounced because the sunlight doesn’t have as far to travel into the adjacent bedrooms. Operable windows allow these spaces to be ventilated by the courtyard.
This last view of the Victorian renovation illustrates how the articulation of the windows with wood framing reinforces this space’s role as a connection to nature. The wood is also a fitting foil to the bamboo and rock garden.
Another project in San Francisco, the Tehama Grasshopper, is a renovation of a warehouse by Anne Fougeron. The main living space of the three-story residence is located on the second floor, which features a courtyard cut from the existing floor plate. This space is open to the sky, and the third-floor penthouse is visible above.
Like the Victorian renovation, this house is organized around the new interior courtyard. On the second floor, kitchen, dining, living, and a bedroom overlook the glass-walled space. Another common feature: sliding doors enabling access to this small space, which is treated like an abstract landscape with rocks and sod.
Also on the second floor a bathroom overlooks the courtyard, hopefully aided by some blinds! Compare these expanses of glass with the Victorian renovation; here the steel frames allow for larger pieces and a more open feeling. Clear glass was a requirement of the owners, making the courtyard a more integral part of the space.
This large residence by Sutton Suzuki Architects features large expanses of glass that look outward to dramatic views, countered by heavy stone walls in other parts of the house. Planning also created several outdoor living spaces, including this almost fully enclosed courtyard with reflecting pool. The otherwise dark stone spaces are lightened by this space with full-height glazing. The dappled reflection of sunlight off the water is a delightful consequence of the design.
Each house in this semi-detached pair in Dulwich, London is oriented about a double-height courtyard with generous glazing. The Glass and Timber Houses, as they are called, are covered in cedar boards, which peel away at this central court (note the wood above and glass below the stair in the distance) to bring light into the heart of the houses.
Landscaping is minimal in most of the spaces collected in this ideabook, owing to the fact that direct sunlight happens for a small amount of the day in interior courtyards. Yet bamboo, that wonder grass that wants to grow just about anywhere, is a good green element in these spaces, as this photo makes clear. Its presence softens the space and further connects the occupants to nature, their own little slice of it.
Precedents in Asian architecture should certainly be acknowledged, ranging from traditional courtyard houses to even contemporary Japanese dwellings that insert courtyards into urban sites. This photo recalls the latter. I like how the sand appears to be “raked” by the wind in this small courtyard.
Not all interior courtyards need to be accessible or of a size that does much more than bring sunlight for part of the day to the middle of deep floor plates. For while these central voids bring a little bit of nature inside houses, they also help reduce energy bills by making daylight that much more abundant. That’s certainly something to think about when considering a project, be it a new building or a renovation, as many of these examples (including this one) happen to be.Field in: modern landscaping, MINIMAL LANDSCAPE DESIGN, urban house, urban house open floor plan, exterior modern building courtyards