There are many different aspects to describe what a courtyard is, and what defines this architype. Most people see the courtyard as an open space surrounded by buildings or walls. This enclosed space is often open to the sky.
By focusing on courtyard structures I have done research in four projects based on what describes a courtyard. The research is based on form, and how these shapes are working in terms of entering the apartments on the ground floor plan. In my opinion, a courtyard is a housing prototype in which you have access to an inner space, either private or public. It is not only a description of rectan- gular forms. The inner area is the most important when refering to courtyards.
So, what is this inner space? My focus has been to investigate how to enter the different apartments in a courtyard. Do you enter directly from the street? Or from the inner space? And the most interesting part; is there a connection between the form and where you enter?
This project is a courtyard housing project from 2013 in Groningen, Netherlands by architechten|en|en. It contains 24 apartments, surrounding an inner, private courtyard.
In this example, the main entrances are on the outside of the courtyard.
The small stripe of green space in the courtyard serves different private gardens with utility spaces and closed walls separating the residents’ outer areas. The courtyard is private, and serves a secondary entrance to the apartments.
Isolated plan of parcel. Apartment, garden space and connection to the inner green courtyard.
This courtyard is open in the short sides. I would still define it as a courtyard because of the surrounding of apartments on the long sides. The inner space is connecting the two sides and creates a whole.
Green space interacting and connecting, and thereby making an unoriginal courtyard.
The inner space (green area) creates entrance points to the ground level apartments. The open short sides makes the site available to the public.
The project Dzintaru 32 from 2013 is in Latvia, by SZK/Z Architects. With only 21 apartments, this small courtyard project is quite high class.
The plan shows the green courtyard as a connection to one main entrance in to an indoor service. Only one door connects these two spaces. The illustrated “doors” in the plan of the apartment heading out to the backyard are open windows. There is only one direct connection to the inner space from the apartments, and that’s the biggest opening on the right side.
The blue space is the indoor service to the different apartments. As we can see in this particular example, the courtyard is important to serve the main entrance, and thereby connect to the apartments. The arrows are pointing out seven apartments on the ground floor.
Tietgenkollegiet is a project based on housing for students, by Lundgård & Tranberg. It’s situated in Copenhagen, Denmark and was built in 2005. Ironicaly, here are 360 apartments in this circular courtyard housing.
The green inner circle opens up in five “hotspots” of entering the housing project from the outside.
The yellow tube shows how to get to the separated flats from the inner circle.
Typical apartment with entrance from the inner tube.
The four discussed courtyards are different in both size and type of housing. Groningen housing with three stories, Valenton’s familiar atmosphere, Tietgenkollegiet with its students and Dzintaru 32 with its few and big apartments. Still, they have things in common. As courtyard housing projects they all have the relation and interaction with a more or less green areas on the site. In my
investigation of how these green spaces are working with entrances, I found that the importancy of courtyard space effects the entrance points in different kinds of ways.
In Groningen, with a closed courtyard, there are only secondary entrances from the inner space. The main entrances are on the outside of the project, relating to the streets. In cases like this one, the courtyards are used for the residents’ contemplation and view in to the backyard. It occurs as a very private space.
On the other hand, Tietgenkollegiet is a closed form with five entrance points activating the inner space, which makes the form become more public than a closed form would provide.
The Valenton housing project can be discussed both as a block architype and a courtyard. As mentioned, I see it as a courtyard because of its clear connection with the inner space and apartments. The question of private and public spaces is also actual because of the splitted form. It’s hard to say whether pedestrians would use the courtyard to go through, or if it feels too private. The privacy is on one hand more realistic because the inner space serves main entrances.
In Dzintaru 32 the entrance is the most important. The threesided court describes a direction towards what’s the main goal; the apartments.
My conclusion would be that there is an important connection between the form of the curtyard and where the entrances are. In my research I found that the more exploded the form gets, the more entrances directly from the inner space. A completely closed form would not work for main entrance purposes. I also found that organic and exploded forms can be seen as courtyards because of the often strong relationship to the inner space.