We've seen the future and it has a courtyard. From sunsoaked spaces in Spain to a futuristic reworking of a traditional residence in Beijing via a Mexican home that resembles a personal maze, architects – and particularly those working in densely populated urban areas – are producing startlingly inventive ways to reimagine our domestic relationship to the great outdoors. We've selected five remarkable courtyards that relish, embrace and frame personal outdoor space. It’s time to bring the outside in.
One stunning courtyard good, two stunning courtyards better. Absolute privacy, better still. Spanish architect Alberto Campo Baeza's remarkable Guerrero House, just outside Cadiz, at first sight resembles a severe square box, protecting those within from prying eyes. Beyond the pure white walls, there are meditative pure white courtyards both front and back, planted with sculptural orange trees and shaded, where needed, by the minimalist open plan house itself, which fully opens onto each outdoor space with deep porches to protect against the severest sun. The rear courtyard includes a cool full width pond. Simple, stark and brilliant.
Glass doors fold back onto paved courtyards, greenery grows through circular apertures in a design that's like a chequerboard, with inside rooms and outdoor areas alternating. On the site of a former Philips electronics factory in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, Villa Fifty-Fifty is as futuristic as the first televisions that were made there. The concept of this transparent garden pavilion with an aluminium bedroom tower at its centre is that outside and indoors are treated with the same weight. Amsterdam architects Studioninedots say of their design: "You’re neither inside nor outside, you move from inside to outside to return inside and end up somewhere outside." An inspiring puzzle.
A Mexican home that's almost a maze. Walk up a ramp and enter a series of passageways, courtyards and rooms that merge and meld with and into each other, with raw textures of natural brick, wood and concrete punctuated by bold circular windows. A dramatic floating roof provides cover, space, air and light over a central garden courtyard. Every interior space of Casa UC in Morelia, central Mexico, is directly adjacent to what architect Daniela Bucio Sistos describes as "the micro-environments generated inside the house". The result is a living space that's as much indoors as out, as much outdoors as in. Transcendently calm.
A traditional Beijing courtyard home has become a minimalist sensory warren of curved walls, unexpected open spaces and multi-purpose rooms. Archstudio Architects have created spaces that can be fused together for a home or used independently as public meeting spaces, linked by undulating floors of grey brick, used for inside and outdoor spaces, that occasionally climb walls onto roofs to defy any conventional idea of what might or might not be a walkway. The result, in crowded inner city Beijing, is a space that defies all expectations and feels far larger than it is. A mature hawthorn tree provides further connection with nature. A true urban sanctuary.
House Among Pines
A private inner courtyard is key to a dramatic house that's almost concealed among the pine trees above Murcia in south-eastern Spain. Javier Pena Galiano of Xpiral Architecture has created a home that fuses to the rocks of the hillside that it's cantilevered over. Living spaces open onto a central courtyard so that at night, when lit, the fully glazed rooms become as one. Multiple levels and acute angles create unexpected vistas and deliberately confuse conventional ideas of what might or might not be outdoor or indoor. Foliage is all around and a pool is cunningly concealed on a private roof in what amounts to an open courtyard all of its own. A sumptuous feast for all the senses.
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