Contemporary courtyard houses

Posted on 26 April 2009 0 comments

Houses with courtyards have been around for centuries but they are not a common housing type in Britain. However, the use of internal courtyards for terraced homes in tight-fitting plots seems to be a increasingly common feature in new high-density house designs. There are some clear advantages to courtyards:

  • Private outdoor space not overlooked by neighbours.
  • For terraced houses, the courtyard acts as a lightwell allowing more natural light to enter the property and potentially making it much easier to give every room in the house its own window.

There are some disadvantages as well:

  • A small courtyard may suffer from a lack of breezes or wind unless windows in other parts of the house are open to let wind course through the entire property.
  • If the courtyard is too small, it might actually have a claustrophobic feel to it. Rooms that look out only into the courtyard may feel like they have a rather limited view.
  • Privacy may feel compromised if you can look across the courtyard from the window of one room into another (particularly if they are bedrooms).
  • If there is heavy rain, the water that falls in the courtyard needs somewhere to drain away – possibly a problem with a paved courtyard, less so with one that’s covered in soil and grass.

Building Design magazine recently reported that Portuguese practice Impromptu Arquitectos and British partner Sergison Bates had won a competition to design and develop homes for a new urban development in Stockton-on-Tees called Northshore.

model of a contemporary courtyard house by Impromptu Arquitectos
A model of the courtyard house (from Impromptu Arquitectos website).

The terraced house designs they produced are really nice and feature a courtyard and open balcony/roof space. The floorplans below are taken from the Impromptu Arquitectos website.

floor plan of a contemporary courtyard house by Impromptu Arquitectos

You can see another example of a courtyard house design by AOC (Architects of Change) in a previous post: The trouble with terraced housing.

Both the homes by AOC and Impromptu Arquitectos seem to have quite small courtyard spaces. Do the advantages and disadvantages of small courtyards listed above apply to these homes? The designs also lack traditional gardens at the back of the property (as far as I can tell). Is this a necessary compromise for high-density homes with limited plot sizes? Would you be happy to live in a house like this?

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