A piece of enclosed earth

4 October, 2017

"The courtyard of a house is like a well.  Looking up, one sees and senses the yang of the sky; looking down, one sees and senses the yin of the Earth.  Both forces meet and merge in the courtyard.  In addition to being a shelter, it is an intermediate communication between human and nature.  The courtyard forms an intermediate space that is suitable for living, outdoor housework, family gatherings, recreation, children's play, and the maintenance of health for the aged."

J P Eberhard, Architect and founder of Neuroscience for Architecture

No architecture feature enabling a family to dwell poetically I can think of performs its function more beautifully than an internalised courtyard garden.  By wrapping a dwelling around a plot of earth you also create a private enclosure for the sky.  No matter what is happening in the outside world, the enclosed yard is quiet, secure, unadorned and is essentially, non-architecture.  It can protect from the sun in the summer and protect from the winds in the winter.  It can allow nature to grow and squirrels to enter and forage.  Projected overhanging eaves can divert rain away whilst allowing the openings to be open to the beautiful sound of rain.  The yard garden becomes a part of the house, it can have nature and water within it and promotes a more feminine and softer environment to the harsh economic and masculine world.  Nature can move into the dwelling in a controlled way.  Ponds, rocks and plants become part of the architecture and are beautiful materials.  Another benefit of a middle yard is that all four elevations of a dwelling have the opportunity to perceive and experience it, whereas a traditional rear garden only benefits one elevation this treatment.

The Workshop has recently been commissioned to work with a family to reinstate an original courtyard within the heart of their existing dwelling.  The courtyard will provide them and their family with many beautiful, safe, secure and intimate moments.  It will provide their two young children with a running track and with a continual connection with their landscape, the Chilterns.