28-30 Apr 2020
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

New configuration courtyard-style homes

Jan 14, 2019 Architecture

Courtyard-style homes aren’t a new phenomenon, appearing every few decades in different configurations. In the 1950s and ‘60s, these homes often appeared with flat roofs and were often single-storey in form.

Today, such dwellings have morphed into different configurations, with many courtyard-style homes being two-storey (a sign also of increasing land values and diminishing land holdings). “The courtyard typology often forms protection from developments either side of one’s property, increasing privacy,” says architect Ben Robertson, director of Tecture.

Creating a sense of protection; physically and psychologically 

Tecture has designed a number of courtyard-style houses, one recently replacing a fairly rundown Californian bungalow in Caulfield. “The problem, apart from its condition, was that there was a garage and driveway on the northern side, taking in most of the light,” says Robertson, whose client also wanted additional bedrooms, along with privacy.

The 650-square-metre site has been given over to a large new two-storey home, approximately 500 square metres in size and covering 60 per cent of the land. There is a modest sized front garden concealed behind a high front fence and a small garden at the rear with a basketball hoop. In the centre of the plot, separating the main bedroom suite from the open plan kitchen and living areas, is the courtyard garden.

This low-maintenance area, complete with a Japanese maple, features three bronze-clad pillars that form part of the wall structure. “These pillars symbolically represent each of the owner’s three children,” says Robertson, who included large bronze sliding doors and windows around this courtyard.

Although the courtyard is relatively modest in size, approximately 4.5 by 6 metres in area, there’s sufficient room for an outdoor lounge as well as for a table should al fresco dining be required.

“It’s just as important to create those smaller ‘moments’ within a home, as well as seeing this courtyard as a suntrap,” says Robertson, who sees this area as a protected environment, both physically and psychologically. “There’s that sense of protection a courtyard offers,” he adds. As important is the sense of space the courtyard offers for the rooms on either side. For the Caulfield house, Tecture also changed the ceiling heights, with the main bedroom being 3 metres and the living area just over 3.5 metres. “The courtyard acts as a subtle transition point between the two.”

Separating the original house from the new house with a courtyard garden

Foomann also created a central courtyard on a 350-square-metre site in Lygon Street, Carlton. This site benefits from a laneway to the rear and an existing two-bedroom Edwardian house fronting Lygon Street. While the original house was left intact, a new house, abutting the laneway, was created for the owners, while the original house is rented to their friends. “Our clients are used to living in shared houses and they wanted a sense of flexibility with this project,” says architect Jamie Sormann, a director of Foomann.

Separating the original house from the new two-storey house is a courtyard garden, of approximately 120 square metres, shared by both. The new house, made from recycled and painted rendered bricks, corrugated steel and translucent polycarbonate, includes two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and a kitchen and living area below. Linked to the courtyard garden via large sliding glass doors, the focus of both houses is the courtyard garden. To allow for privacy, Foomann created a change of level to the rear home that can easily be planted out along the edges should greater privacy be required.

Unlike many courtyard gardens that feature hard paving and minimal planting, this one includes a vegetable garden and even an outdoor shower and an outdoor bath. “This area is treated like another room,” says Sormann. As well as being relatively generous in size, this courtyard receives generous light in all directions without having its views compromised.

“You’re not overlooked from neighbours and the focus of the courtyard enlarges the sense of space from inside both homes,” adds Sormann, who sees both the courtyard model as ideal for many sites, particularly those in the inner city where land sizes are diminishing. “Our clients wanted to create flexibility with this arrangement,” he adds.

Tecture can be contacted on 9417 2854
Foomann can be contacted on 0408 546 470

About the Author: Stephen Crafti

Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990’s and is a regular contributor to DesignBUILD. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of writing about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.

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