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Coutryard Houses

Updated on September 17, 2007
Fig.1 A Chinese Urban Courtyard House
Fig.1 A Chinese Urban Courtyard House

Courtyard Houses - A Global Form of Domestic Buildings

Courtyard houses are houses in which the spaces are arranged around an inner courtyard. Generally these houses are inward looking and afford maximum privacy and security for the inmates. This form of houses are not limited to a particular community or to a particular period. There are evidences to show that courtyard houses were in use long before the start of chiristian era.

Ancient Greeks and Romans built courtyard houses. In China houses with inner courtyards were popular for a long time. Arabs lived in courtyard houses since very old times. This form well suited for many islamic societies. In India courtyard houses can be found all over the country. Traditional canons of architecture of India too encourage this form of houses.

In many societies, courtyard houses were prefered by urban as well as rural populations. These houses were used by civilized and primitive societies alike.

Fig.2 A Village House in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Note, separate thatched units arranged around an open court.
Fig.2 A Village House in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Note, separate thatched units arranged around an open court.

Inception of Courtyard Houses

By looking at various traditional houses around the world indicates that the courtyard houses evolved from an arrangement where separate small structures were built around a central open space. In a situation where the technology was a limiting factor in covering a large space under one roof, breaking the required spaces into smaller units were logical. By building them around a central open space ensured close relationships between separate units and brought in an additional usable space within the living space. This would have been much popular in regions where the climate prompted out door living more comfortable.

Fig.3 Method of dividing building plots to determin mandatory open space and buildable areas.
Fig.3 Method of dividing building plots to determin mandatory open space and buildable areas.

Ancient Indian Architectural Texts and Courtyard Concept

Ancient Indian Architectural Texts known as Silpa Sastra or Vastu Sastra say a specific proportion of open space in relation the whole building site need to be left open in the middle. This according to these texts belongs to the creater and supreme god of the vedic Hindu religion Brahma. Complience to this rule leads to a courtyard arrangement. Possibly this rule may have originated following the accepted vernacular house forms of the ancient india. However, as vastu sastra governed the building design India for a long time, the coutryard concept for houses also was in demand through out many centuries of Indian history.

Fig.3 shows one of the many methods suggested by Vastu Sastra to decide the buildable part of the building site. The site is divided into 81 divisions as shown and the central nine divisions are considered the portion for Brahma and no building is recommended here.

Fig.4 A sketch showing the interior View of a court yard house in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
Fig.4 A sketch showing the interior View of a court yard house in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

Fig.4 above shows an interior view of a courtyard house in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The columns, ceilings and heavy doors and frames seen here were made out of solid timber. These types of houses were very popular in Jaffna till about the end of 1950s. Even when changes occurred during a long colonial rule, and several western elements were incorporated in traditional houses, courtyard courtyard retained its place.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      good advice and suggestions - god bless you

      rissala polo club

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hey im a architecture third year student..m working wth the concept of courtyards in a low density housing project..can someone post me some ideas?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hi am final area student of architecture am doing thesis on art center which is based on courtyards so can anyone help me to clear courtyards concepts

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      we r planning to built a house with a courtyard structure,can anybody post some pictures of courtyard houses...?

    • profile image

      jebby geo 

      7 years ago

      I am doing my thesis on theological college which needs to have a couple of courtyard spaces for interaction , meditation spaces etc.. So can u tell me the scale of spaces to be provided and kinds of spaces which can be called as courtyard spaces .

    • profile image

      Richa Khandelwal 

      8 years ago

      I am doing my Dissertation on Courtyards in residential and Educational buildings, can u please tell me about the proportion and its size upto which that area is called as courtyard, and how scale of courtyard with respect to its surrounding built or landsaping forms changes

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      hey i am a final year student of architecture and i was about to begin work on my thesis... i just sarted the year... was wondering on an amalgamation of apartments and courtyards... keeping the social, physical, ecological...etc.. aspects in mind... could you kindly guidde me a little...

      my email add :

    • Rmnathan profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Sharjah

      Deepika, Success of courtyard as a spatial element in a building depends on many aspects. In the past people from many parts of the world used courtyard as a technique to acheive goals related to their cultural needs, to maximize comfort, to maximize the available habitable space etc. Usage of courtyard in your building needs to satisfy the concept you selected for your project. I believe that you had developed your concept based on cultural, climatic, functional, social and many other related aspects of  built environment. You need to establish that inclusion of courtyard in your design helped to realise your concept. I don't know exactly for what purpose your courtyard serves in the building. It can be used to promote social interaction, natural ventilation, functional relationships between various spaces of your building, to protect certain open air activities fron harsh outside conditions (dust, noise etc.) and many other.

    • profile image

      deepika gupta 

      10 years ago


      m doing thesis on i.t park.. i have provided courtyards in office buildings..pls give me some more information on courtyard type structures so that they can help me in justifying my concept

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      hi..m architecture student (final year),doing my thesis on school for spastics.

      i was looking for more information on benifits of courtyard type structures,because my school is circular in form with enclosed courtyard.

      i just need few more points to justify my concept.. could u please help.??

    • Rmnathan profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Sharjah

      Yes, I am an Architect. Thanks for visiting my page vrajavala. I could not access your article. I do not know why.

    • vrajavala profile image


      10 years ago from Port St. Lucie

      Are you an architect? My son-in-law is going to work in Dubai on some architectural projects. I wrote an articl this morning on


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