Courtyards in architecture function as a unique way to bring the outside in. Courtyards are outdoor spaces typically enclosed on three or four sides and are open to the sky. Unlike a backyard, courtyards can be located within the footprint of a building to provide an alternate form of recreation space. They were traditionally used in hot and humid regions to promote cross-breeze in homes and buildings. While they are still used in the same way today, for Canadian four-season climate zones, there are other advantages for incorporating courtyards into your home.
Connection with Nature
Courtyards provide an opportunity to bring the outdoors in, giving access to natural daylight, views to outside, and cross ventilation in the summer months. One of the biggest advantages of having a courtyard is providing visual and physical access to nature, which has been proven to have a positive benefit on mental and physical health. If centrally located within the building, multiple rooms or spaces in the home can share these benefits.
An extension of the living space
Courtyards can act as multi-functional living spaces that are an extension of the home. Whether that be an outdoor kitchen, garden, or lounge, the possibilities are endless. While our use for courtyards may be limited in winter months, they do provide the benefit of blocking out seasonal winds helping to create a more comfortable microclimate in the winter and maybe extend barbecue season!
Courtyards provide a more private, tranquil setting compared to some backyards that can be adjoined and look onto neighbouring properties. A courtyard on the other hand is typically enclosed on three or four sides by the interior of the building. In dense city’s where outdoor space is limited, courtyards can be incorporated to provide an outdoor retreat while still offering privacy to residence. Studio Junction was able to achieve just that in their Courtyard House located in a laneway in Toronto. To maximize outdoor living space and natural daylight, all while maintaining privacy, they incorporated two courtyards; one on the ground floor and one on the second floor, with all windows looking onto these two outdoor spaces.
Here are some other unique courtyards from architects around the world that inspire us.