Courtyard :An Architectural Element of Design

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The central courtyard is often referred to as an atrium and is a unique feature that can give your home an abundance of natural light. A central courtyard in your home can provide peaceful privacy for the family, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It is also a perfect way to make the most of the beautiful Indian climate! Courtyards add warmth and a point of difference to a client’s home. Designing courtyards is in line with philosophy of providing a solid connectivity with nature while responding to client needs and their vision of beautiful, livable spaces. Courtyards can be the heart of a building where natural light and warmth permeate throughout the space.

Central courtyards are not only aesthetically beautiful but offer many benefits to the home such as better ventilation. The open space allows for air movement within the home and natural breezes can be substituted for expensive air conditioning in the warm Indian summers.The security of a central courtyard is also an added bonus as clients can open all of the windows and doors during the day and night without worrying about intruders.

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Whilst central courtyards are not new to the building industry, they are a classic feature being the Traditional homes from across the globe have used designs with interior courtyards for thousands of years, but have fallen out of favour in recent generations. From the earliest example of a courtyard house in 6000BCE, to the ancient Roman Domus, to the Chinese Siheyuan and the Sahn of the typical middle eastern home, the courtyard house has a long history that crosses regional boundaries and spans many climactic zones. Recent research has focused in on the many benefits of these traditional designs; these homes not only have sustainability advantages, like passive cooling, but also create major benefits for their inhabitants health and social life. Can we capitalize on these traditional models by incorporating courtyards into our modern architecture?

In warmer climates, courtyard homes are particularly sustainable, allowing for greater ventilation in the home and cooler spaces of outdoor refuge than the neighbouring streets.

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The modern dining room extension runs straight off of the kitchen island.

“Courtyards work with any style of home, from modern to classical, but the designs are particularly popular in warmer climates, where courtyards induce airflow. When designed properly, one end of the courtyard can be 15 degrees cooler than the other end because of cross-ventilation.”

Courtyards might not just make our lives greener- they may also make them happier. In multi-family housing, a courtyard can be a “central component to promote social and cultural health and happiness of residents.” In a research, one notices data both qualitative and quantitative data on courtyard garden house designs, and concluded that it is the combination of “a sense of privacy with a feeling of community” that is the reason for the social success of these spaces.

But How can we adapt traditional courtyard spaces into our contemporary design work? In what ways can we utilize the inherit powers of the courtyard to improve our housing designs? because Courtyards are an Architectural Design Element.When I teach my students of Interior Design I ask them to plan a residential space as per the bio-climatic requirements of Nature so as to increase the well-being of the family residing in that house .

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Architecturally, courtyards add a design element that creates connectivity between interior and exterior space. The open air oasis, a rarity in dense cities, provides a multi-functional extension of living space ideal for entertaining, gardening, yoga and star gazing, right in the middle of a restless city. Unlike a yard, courtyards carved out in the center of a building provides a private tranquil space for homeowners, or buffered space for apartment dwellers in courtyard apartments.

Connecting with Nature

Living in a hyperconnected environment has been scientifically proven to induce stress, feelings of loneliness and people yearn to have more connectivity to the world we live in. Natural environments and having access to outdoor space can have a positive impact on physical and mental health and the benefits of connecting with nature can improve well being.We have to be in contact with our natural surroundings to acquire an intimate knowledge about them and in order to protect them. We will need a paradigm shift so that a building becomes a member of the landscape, collecting solar energy from the sun for its electrical needs while sequestering carbon and producing oxygen, harvesting rainwater for potable uses and maintaining an edible forest, and supplying waste water to on-site wetlands. Our bid for courtyards is a small step forward toward our vision of this harmonious future, which looks to a city teeming with life, not the sterile projection of Wall-E and other climate disaster movies.

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Every house can benefit from blending with nature, and in the current urban environment, there’s no better way to achieve this than with internal gardens for modern Indian homes. Besides adding a stunning feature to the interiors of the house, an interior courtyard garden provides a relaxing retreat where one can refresh one’s energy amid the soothing greenery. In modern Indian homes, it’s easy to incorporate an internal garden seamlessly with the help of glass walls, sliding doors and retractable ceilings.

For houses, if one wants specific designs such as interior courtyard designs — Kerala style, with a traditional courtyard around which all the rooms of the house wrap, it’s essential to incorporate it into the model at the time of planning the house. Of course, it’s possible to install simple indoor gardens even in small apartments.

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The most straightforward idea for an indoor garden design in India is to have a low-maintenance rock garden with hardy plants that don’t require much care. All you need is a small area, either off the living area or a bedroom, where rocks and plants can be artistically arranged to create a lovely green patch. Ideally, glass windows or a sliding door should allow you to view the garden from within the room to bring in the freshness of the garden into the home’s interiors.

Another idea is to have a Japanese indoor garden design with pebbles, a bamboo plant and a small fountain that not only don’t require much space but also are cost effective and easy to maintain. A Japanese garden is minimalist in nature, making it the perfect internal garden for a modern home.

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Green walls or vertical gardens are a new trend in Indian homes as they only require a bit of wall space to bring greenery into any room. These gardens are also relatively maintenance-free if they come with automated-watering systems.

While many old bungalows in India have a traditional courtyard in the centre, often with a water feature or a tree, modern apartments have an insufficient area within to incorporate a large courtyard. A smart solution is to create small interior courtyard designs, with artificial grass, potted plants and even a customised water feature in a corner. Adding artwork and sculptures on the wall as well as seating can convert the area into a cosy space where your family will love to relax in the evenings or early mornings.

The design can be implemented even in a balcony or terrace adjoining the living room by u When thinking of internal gardens for modern Indian homes, one of the most common designs that come to mind is the traditional central courtyard, like the ones seen in old houses in Kerala. While it might seem like the design won’t suit a modern style home, one can adapt it by using the square or rectangular well in the centre with a glass roof overhead to protect it against the natural elements. In a modern house, using French doors or picture windows that frame the views of the courtyard from within the home can make it appear that the greenery is an extension of the room, adding a calming touch to the ambience.

One can carry through certain traditional elements in the interior courtyard garden by planting a large tree or installing a pond with floating flowers in the centre of the courtyard. Some pieces of traditional furniture such as a simple wooden swing can look just as good even in a modern house. To keep the area maintenance-free paving blocks of concrete or spread along the walls to add to the greenery.

Using sliding glass doors to separate the areas without blocking the views of the garden.

For homeowners who value sustainability when building a home, one of the best ideas is to retain the existing trees on the plot of land and design the house around it. Imagine having a tall tree with its branches running through several rooms in the house! You can extend the idea by enclosing the tree within glass walls to create an internal garden with pebbles and potted plants. This type of interior courtyard garden design not only adds a unique feature to the house but also allows nature to thrive amid the construction as the glass doesn’t block the sunlight, thereby allowing the tree to grow well.

Since space is limited in most modern Indian homes, it’s an excellent idea to identify dead spaces that can be converted into a lovely internal garden. Usually, the entrance corridor or the stairwell are common areas where space gets wasted. By designing the area to incorporate an interior courtyard garden one can enjoy the benefit of having a splash of green inside the home.

It doesn’t take much to build an internal garden under the atrium at the entrance or beneath the staircase. All you need is a few planters, pebble borders and niches or shelves on which more potted plants can be placed. Of course, you can take it a step further by creating layers such as a water feature with floating lotuses or koi fish and covering it with glass tiles to make a stunning entrance for the home.

While it isn’t impossible to create internal gardens for modern Indian homes, it’s essential to design the space so that you get the most out of it. It’s advisable to consult a landscape architect or professional who has the knowledge and experience to suggest the best elements that can be a part of the interior garden in your home.

Advantages of a Courtyard

Architecturally, courtyards make perfect sense. They give the residents of a home a private outdoor space, which is secure and usable throughout the day. With its natural ventilation, a courtyard helps the house stay appropriately warm or cool without the need for heaters and air conditioners.

In a warm climate, a courtyard can bring down the house’s temperature, saving on energy bills. Several courtyards also include natural cooling elements as a part of their design like a fountain, a basin, an artificial waterfall, thick external walls and double-glazed windows.

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Interior courtyards are very much in vogue today for the above reasons. They provide an aesthetic means of spending time with nature in the midst of a busy schedule. And the best part is that courtyards work with any style of home — modern or traditional.

So from growing an indoor garden to creating a serene corner in a crash and burn busy lifestyle, interior courtyards can do so much to enrich your life. Here are some more advantages you can enjoy…

For overall mental and physical health, human beings need to see the night sky every so often. In a densely designed city, it’s truly a luxury to steal a quiet moment of private reflection in your own courtyard. There are many benefits of a courtyard that go beyond aesthetics. Some of the benefits include:

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An interior courtyard centrally sits under the open sky, flooding the space around it with daylight. Every room that opens into the courtyard gets its dose of sunlight during the day, helping you with energy savings.

The benefits of being exposed to this optimum quantity of sunlight are well known, and even during a daily workday, you’ll benefit by simply having your morning tea in a natural refreshing environment. For courtyards that are located in the front or back of the house, the adjacent room can be the kitchen or living room, which is most often used during the day.

Centrally located courtyards in urban setups may be surrounded by high walls restricting the entry of light. In such cases, you can use exterior reflectors on your windows and doors.


For centuries, interior courtyards have been created to aid the purpose of natural ventilation. Ventilation itself serves many purposes. It provides fresh air, improves oxygen supply and dilutes odours. When creating a courtyard, keep room for cross ventilation, which offers the maximum cooling effect.

Courtyard ventilation also has passive cooling effects during the night, which brings the overall temperature of the place down. In addition to this, a courtyard filled with plants and a garden area helps keep the house cool even in scorching and arid climates.

Separate Spaces

A courtyard acts as a space separator within the home. A courtyard between the living room and bedrooms, can work to increase the privacy between these areas, not letting casual visitors walk in unwittingly. It provides a break in the décor too, with each section gaining a new personality that goes only with the central flow.

A courtyard between the kitchen and living room is a perfect place for entertaining guests as well as unwinding after the day’s work.

Connects Spaces

A courtyard can also be a connector of spaces within the home, providing accessibility to different parts with ease. If you have a courtyard in the front or at the back of your house, it not only acts as an entrance or exit point, but can connect to more than one room depending on your courtyard architecture.

A centrally located courtyard, on the other hand, can provide access to multiple rooms in the house, making movement easier.

Privacy + Security: Instead of hauling in the grill every night, a courtyard allows you to truly go wild with your ultimate vision for a secret garden and teak Adirondack chairs or fully decked out outdoor kitchen. Likewise, plants and edible gardens will be out of reach from hungry critters or neighbors tempted to snack on your tomatoes.

Therapeutic Properties: As a society we suffer from nature deficit disorder. Studies have shown that spending mindful time outdoors can reduce stress levels and strengthen your immune system. Putting down the electronics and spending intentional time in the privacy of a courtyard and allowing yourself to get lost in your surroundings can help you reach a greater sense of calm.

Possibilities: Unlike a yard, open to lookie-loo neighbors, an enclosed courtyard becomes another room in your house offering a private respite space. Being open to the sky, there are no height limits, and it can be layered with trellises, plant life, hanging cocoon chairs, party lights, or whatever you please. Or, you can go big and create your own outdoor spa!

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Recreation: Letting kids or pets play outdoors is a little less intimidating and can provide a greater sense of security with a courtyard. They get fresh air and you get piece of mind. Likewise, adults wanting to unwind in a private setting without missing out on a lovely summer night can get ahold of both! Depending on lot size, it’s entirely possible to install a pétanque court. How glorious would it be to spend warm summer evenings with friends, and playing a spirited game of pétanque more like playing with marbles in India ?

Courtyard Kitchen Extension

In India , we relish the short window of warm temperatures, and when the sun is shining you probably don’t want to be trapped inside, busy with meal preparation. Extending the kitchen to the outdoors can provide a fresh perspective that can boost culinary imagination and create a nature-inspired gathering space for family and guests.

There are a variety of outdoor cooking options to consider when you’re planning an outdoor kitchen design. Whether you’re an aspiring master chef or a true grill master, installing a grill, smoker, and wood burning oven trifecta can navigate your gastronomy quest throughout the year.

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Imagine being able to walk out your back door and wander into a green cloaked paradise teaming with birds and butterflies. With little effort or expense, it’s possible to create a lush landscape reminiscent of local garden nurseries. A mix of edible, native and perennial plants can bring interest and layers of visually stunning plant life to your doorstep. Native plants are usually low-maintenance and drought tolerant and tend to attract beneficial insects, such as pollinators, and colorful butterflies. Depending on the health of the soil and sun orientation, edible plants can be planted directly into the ground and provide a healthy dose of vegetables throughout the summer. Having fresh herbs and summer vegetables available just a garden shear snip away can be so rewarding! If the soil situation is suboptimal, using a variety of containers, planter boxes or raised beds are great options and have the added benefit of being mobile so they can be placed along the sun’s path. A more extravagant landscape plan would include shrubs, trees and an irrigation system to lessen the amount of labour and time spent with maintenance. Although, there are times when I find solace in the simple task of watering plants. With a courtyard, you have the option to enjoy the refreshing joy of being amidst greenery without having to look for it in far flung jungle reserves and nature resorts. Simply head to your courtyard to rejuvenate your eyes with the sight of green — it’s beneficial for health.

The great part of having a courtyard is that you can enjoy what different seasons bring in. From blossoming flowers under the summer sun to the hundred hues of green during the rains, to the select blossoms of winter, you can enjoy it all without stepping out from your home.

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Designing and Building a Courtyard

When thinking about utilizing a courtyard in your design you should take the following into consideration: budget, convenience and placement of a grill, shelter (is an overhang possible to protect and shade windows and doors?), rainwater collection and drainage, irrigation, hardscape, landscape, built-ins, running utility lines, and lighting hook ups.

In all a Courtyard is an exceptional microclimate Controller and can be a great Stress Reliever for the families .

Written by

Vinita Mathur @President , ,Mentor ,Learner.

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