For a breath of fresh air, bring the outside into your home with an interior courtyard.
Courtyard homes existed as far back as 3,000 BC in India and China, in ancient Roman villas, and in traditional Mexican haciendas.
Islamic architecture made extensive use of inner courtyards – the style is poetically called handasat al hijab, or ‘architecture of the veil’ – with modest exteriors that gave little away of the often exquisite beauty inside.
Today, although form, size and materials have changed significantly, interior courtyards are getting a look-in for all the reasons they were popular millennia ago.
Because of its long cultural evolution, no precise definition of a courtyard exists. Way back, it was an uncovered space within a building to let smoke out, but has changed over time to be covered, semi-covered, or with an adjustable roof.
It is commonly surrounded by walls or barriers and contains elements of nature.
An internal courtyard is a great multi-tasker that can deliver eco-efficiency gains. Spacious ones cater for family entertaining activities; smaller ones hold seats or plantings; and some are pocket-sized sanctuaries for solitary contemplation.
They provide privacy, and are quiet and safe play areas, refuges from a fast-paced world.
An interior courtyard under an open or glass roof delivers daylight and sunshine in a moving light show, as the angle of the sun changes. Light carries into the spaces wrapped around a courtyard too.
This reduces lighting costs if surrounding rooms have minimal glazing to the outside and need artificial lighting in the daytime.
Designing a modern extension to an old house poses a question for architects – how best to link old and new for a seamless transition. An elegant solution is a semi-enclosed courtyard that creates a pause between the two parts of the house.