Courtyard Type, The Architecture of Collective Living

Dimitris Chatziioakeimidis, Wojciech Mazan:

Although several sources point to the Neolithic Yarmukian site in Jordan Valley (6400–6000 BC) as the place of origin of the courtyard type, to trace its history is not a simple task, since it is a type that developed throughout different ages and cultures. Courtyards refer to a circumscribed open area that is enclosed by a building or series of buildings, which in turn define its perimeter. There are several reasons that lead people to choose this form of enclosure, such as the protection from external forces, human invasions or wild animals. Another reason is the delimitation of one’s property or even the gathering of several properties. Whatever the case, a specific relation is established between inside and outside, who is included and who is excluded, thus, limits play an important role as the place where encounters and conflicts take place. The passing of this limit leads to an enclosed space  an interior, but, at the same time, a place that is experienced as an outdoor space, a kind of internal square that is outside of the city, an isolated common. This results in a self-referential architecture, one that is generated from the autonomy of the courtyard itself. 

The courtyard type, as the architectural expression of an act of gathering around something, has an immediate relation to forms of collective living. In contrast to the absolute and static relationship between the inside and outside world established by the perimeter line, the relation between individuals and collective inside a courtyard can be more fluid and has several forms of manifestation. The court as the centre of collectivity (spatially, symbolically) is usually manifested in a concentric organisation that allows for each member to experience the same. The use of the term Architecture of Collective Living allowed us to broaden our perspective on residential architecture. Within the term, there is space for analysis of different modes of shared living, from historical to contemporary and from different social, political, and economic backgrounds. Therefore, it enabled us to look beyond only one genre of building, allowing instead to compare cases from different groups, such as cooperative housing, boarding houses, student’s dormitory, colleges etc. 

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