COURTYARD HOUSE STYLE
Prepared By : Bara’a Bahnini
To : Dr. Haitham Ratrout
Dr. Iman Al Amad
Arch. Maisa’ Arafat
• A court or courtyard is an enclosed area, often
a space enclosed by a building that is open to
the sky. These areas in inns and public buildings
were often the primary meeting places for some
purposes, leading to the other meanings
of court. Both of the words "court" and "yard"
derive from the same root, meaning an enclosed
The huge courtyard surrounded by arched porticoes in
the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia .
• Courtyards—private open spaces surrounded by walls
or buildings—have been in use in residential
architecture for almost as long as people have lived in
constructed dwellings. The courtyard house makes its
first appearance ca. 6400–6000 BC (calibrated), in the
Neolithic Yarmukian site at Sha'ar HaGolan, in the
central Jordan Valley, on the northern bank of the
Yarmouk River, giving the site a special significance in
• Courtyards have historically been used for many
purposes including cooking, sleeping, working,
playing, gardening, and even places to keep animals.
• Before courtyards, open fires were kept burning in a central
place within a home, with only a small hole in the
ceiling overhead to allow smoke to escape. Over time, these
small openings were enlarged and eventually led to the
development of the centralized open courtyard we know today.
Courtyard homes have been designed and built throughout the
world with many variations.
• Courtyard homes are more prevalent in temperate climates, as
an open central court can be an important aid to cooling house
in warm weather. However, courtyard houses have been found
in harsher climates as well for centuries. The comforts offered
by a courtyard—air, light, privacy, security, and tranquility—are
properties nearly universally desired in human housing.
2000 BC — two-storey houses constructed around an
open square were built of fired brick. Kitchen, working,
and public spaces were located on the ground floor, with
private rooms located upstairs
The central uncovered area in a Roman domus was
referred to as an atrium. Today, we generally use the term
courtyard to refer to such an area, reserving the word
atrium to describe a glass-covered courtyard. Roman
atrium houses were built side by side along the street.
They were one-storey homes without windows that took in
light from the entrance and from the central atrium. The
hearth, which used to inhabit the center of the home, was
relocated, and the Roman atrium most often contained a
central pool used to collect rainwater, called an
impluvium. These homes frequently incorporated a
second open-air area, the garden, which would be
surrounded by Greek-style colonnades, forming a
peristyle. This created a colonnaded walkway around the
perimeter of the courtyard, which influenced monastic
structures centuries later.
The Middle East
Courtyard houses in the Middle East reflect the nomadic
influences of the region. Instead of officially designating
rooms for cooking, sleeping, etc., these activities were
relocated throughout the year as appropriate to
accommodate the changes in temperature and the
position of the sun. Often the flat rooftops of these
structures were used for sleeping in warm weather. In
some Islamic cultures, private courtyards provided the
only outdoor space for women to relax unobserved.
The traditional Chinese courtyard house, e.g., siheyuan,
is an arrangement of several individual houses around a
square. Each house belongs to a different family member,
and additional houses are created behind this
arrangement to accommodate additional family members
as needed. The Chinese courtyard is a place of privacy
and tranquility, almost always incorporating a garden and
water feature. In some cases, houses are constructed
with multiple courtyards that increase in privacy as they
recede from the street. Strangers would be received in the
outermost courtyard, with the innermost ones being
reserved for close friends and family members.
• In a more contemporary version of the Chinese model, a
courtyard can also can be used to separate a home into
wings; for example, one wing of the house may be for
entertaining/dining, and the other wing may be for
sleeping/family/privacy. This is exemplified by the Hooper
House in Baltimore, Maryland.
The medieval European farmhouse embodies what we
think of today as one of the most archetypal examples of
a courtyard house—four buildings arranged around a
square courtyard with a steep roof covered by thatch. The
central courtyard was used for working, gathering, and
sometimes keeping small livestock. An elevated walkway
frequently ran around two or three sides of the courtyards
in the houses. Such structures afforded protection, and
could even be made defensible.
In the first half of the 20th century, a trend developed in
Los Angeles around Courtyard houses. Designers such
as the Davis family and the Zwebell family developed
houses that only visually appeared to mimic
Mediterranean architecture, but using very carefully
planned courtyards managed to create both a sense of
community, safety and scale. Using various levels of
private/public gradations these courtyard houses were so
successful that they have been copied throughout the
western coast of the United States.
In San Francisco, the floor plans of "marina style" houses
often include a central patio, a miniature version of an
open courtyard, sometimes covered with glass or a
translucent material. Central patios provide natural light to
common areas and space for potted outdoor plants.
In Gilgit/Baltistan, Pakistan, courtyards were traditionally
used for public gatherings where village related issues
were discussed. These were different from jirgahs, which
are a tradition of the tribal regions of Pakistan.
A ventilated courtyard as a passive cooling
strategy in the warm humid tropics
• The inclusion of an internal courtyard in building design is
attributed to the optimization of natural ventilation in order
to minimize indoor overheating conditions. However, the
efficiency of this strategy greatly depends on the design
details of the building composition in providing appropriate
airflow pattern to the courtyard. From the results of
thermal measurements, a significant correlation between
wall surface temperatures and indoor air temperatures is
evident. A reduction of indoor air temperature below the
levels of ambient is seen as a function of heat exchange
between the indoor air and high thermal mass of the
building fabric. However, this behavior is affected by
indoor airflow patterns, which are controlled through the
composition between envelope openings and the
courtyard of the building.
• From a computational analysis, several airflow patterns
are identified. A relatively better indoor thermal
modification is seen when the courtyard acts as an air
funnel discharging indoor air into the sky, than the
courtyard acts as a suction zone inducing air from its sky
opening. The earlier pattern is promoted when the
courtyard is ventilated through openings found in the
building envelope. The computational simulation utilizing
the standard k-ϵ turbulent model with isothermal condition
agrees closely with the measurements taken from the
• Courtyard houses made a lot of sense. The residents got
outdoor space that was secure and usable at all times of
day; nobody had to lock a window or door that opened
into the central area. It provided lots of natural ventilation.
The roofs were often used for rainwater collection. They
have kept people appropriately warm and cool without
high technology- for 4,500 years.
• Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, they are all the
rage again, for many of the same reasons that the
Romans loved them 2000 years ago.
• Today, the courtyard has swung back to being a blend of
geometry and nature, transforming from a functional
protection from weather and foes to a space that's
conducive to spending more time outside. Courtyards
work with any style of home, from modern to classical, but
the designs are particularly popular in warmer climates,
where courtyards induce airflow. When designed properly,
one end of the courtyard can be 15 degrees cooler than
the other end because
• The Journal notes that building a courtyard house is more
expensive because of the additional exterior wall surface,
but this is compensated for by the fact that " the increased
outdoor space, converted from indoor space, can lead to
lower energy bills as there is less home to heat.of cross-
Modern technology is also helping
• A slew of new building technologies—particularly in
windows, doors and lighting—has also played a role.
Window and door manufacturers now make 8-foot-wide
panels that can be combined to create a 32-foot-long
stretch, for example.... Similarly, LED lighting has allowed
architects to transform the courtyard into a functional
room at night so it doesn't just sit there like, "dead space,"
• The concept of the courtyard house reinterprets the
suburban ideal of a detached house sitting in the middle
of a plot. These dwellings challenge the conventional and
are an exciting option for lifestylers.
• This development of thirteen courtyard houses makes up part
of the redevelopment of surplus defense land known as Fort
Dorset in Wellington’s Seatoun and includes a new primary
school for the suburb. The courtyard houses are surrounded by
a number of detached and semi-detached houses that are
stand-alone developments. The development master plan was
created to provide a complete design response for the site
using both architecture and landscape architecture disciplines.
The courtyard development was comprehensively designed for
the center of the site to provide a catalyst for the stand alone
development of surrounding detached and semidetached
houses. The interconnecting building shapes of the courtyard
development alternate between single and two storey buildings
that shape and shelter private courtyards. The houses, their
garden walls and planting provide a staggered edge that adds
character to the surrounding public lanes.
Key Project Information
• Project type: Courtyard houses.
• Site area : 4200 M^2.
• Density: 30 DW/HA.
• The site makes up part of the redevelopment of surplus
defense land known as Fort Dorset in Seatoun.
• The site has a very flat topography.
• Parking: Front access,
• Single internal garage per dwelling (for 6 dwellings),
• Double internal garage per dwelling (for 7 dwellings),
• Four visitor car parking spaces
• Comprehensive residential development of 13 single and two
storey courtyard houses
• The houses comprise two basic models. The singlestorey 16m
houses are spaced between the twostorey 20m houses so that
views and sun are maximised
1. The size of the overall site provides for the opportunity
of a range of different building typologies adjacent to the
early-mid 20th century development of detached
housing that makes up the majority of Seatoun
2. New access ways open the interior of the site to a
coastal walkway leading to the rugged Wellington
1. The clever design of the buildings defines both the
smaller sheltered courtyard spaces but also provides for
a stronger anchor in the middle of this comprehensive
2. The integration of buildings and outdoor space
maximises the useability of the site, controlling how
every square meter is utilised. This is in contrast with
typical suburban development which is likely to have
areas that are under-utilised.
1. The composition of planting, the sculptural form of
buildings, the activity of screens, gates, garage doors,
doors and windows all positively contribute to the public
2. There are sufficient windows that overlook the lanes
and provide for a level of comfort and safety for people
moving through the area.
3. The diversity of different edge conditions and building
materials provide for an attractive environment.
1. The development is made up of 13 individual courtyard
houses that alternate between one and two storey
forms to maximise the views from the houses and
courtyards as well as letting the sun in.
2. These houses provide a new and refreshing typology
for a suburban development.
3. There is both variety that helps break down the form
and cohesion through the design style and materials
that holds it together.
4. The skillful use of interconnected forms, shared walls
and fences creates a comprehensive whole.
1. The built form arrangement of each house shapes the
integral private courtyard.
2. The interior spaces seamlessly integrate with the
external courtyards by using floor to ceiling glazing.
3. North orientation maximises passive heating through
solar gain for internal living spaces.
1. The car does not dominate as the surrounding lanes
effectively operate as shared surfaces.
2. Each house provides for car parking in a range of
double, single garages and open car pads that step in
and out with the different building forms. This diversity
helps break down what could have been a visually
monotonous line of garage doors.