Within residential buildings, one typically moves through a space in a linear progression from the most public to the most private spaces. In other words, the scheme of a site is generally organized from front to back: entrance, public spaces, semi-public spaces, and finally, the most private areas. This sequential journey begins at the front door, moves along into the living room, kitchen, or other common areas, ultimately culminating in the backyard.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Sometimes a plot of land isn’t conducive to rectilinear floor plans, or perhaps a client is looking for more privacy in an urban area. Whatever the reason, courtyards provide a unique opportunity for architects to create non-linear schemes of circulation that address unique problems, while conjuring up some pretty spectacular spatial solutions.
Moving to-and-fro between patterns of light cascading from inside to out, this collection — inspired by Phaidon’s contemporary compendiumJutaku: Japanese Houses — explores multiple ways a site arranged in radial symmetry can yield truly dramatic experiences. All situated in the “Land of the Rising Sun,” these nine projects demonstrate some innovative ways to design a home around a courtyard, blurring the boundaries between domestic and open-air spaces.
Enter the void below …
A series of individual units undulating in a radial scheme provide the building’s occupants with an open and connected living space that doesn’t trade off the privacy it requires. Bordering the courtyard, each unit is adjoined to its neighbor at each corner, allowing the connected volumes to be flooded with natural light.
The entrance to this two-story structure lies beneath a bevelled cantilever that contains the living room of the house. A ground-floor courtyard and roofed terrace are hidden from plain sight behind the structure’s exterior wall.
The entire site of this small house is enclosed by a series of outdoor spaces hidden by slatted metal walls. The metallic cladding wraps around the outer walls, forming a windowless surface. The two courtyards and private parking space are illuminated by slits of light permeating from panels spaced slightly apart.
This timber house follows a square plan that features a teardrop-shaped courtyard at its center. The single-story villa has a radial arrangement so that the circular sequence of rooms face inwards towards the grassy knoll in the central courtyard.
The seamless, frosted façade of this three-story Tokyo home glows in diffused light. The courtyard is centered around a tree and framed by two-story-high glass walls on both sides, permitting views from the living room into the bedrooms on the ground and first floors.
This boomerang-shaped structure gradually doubles in height as it bends around a semi-private courtyard. On the triangular site, there are rice fields to the north side, a park to the south, a high-volume road to the east, and a vegetable garden on the west side.
Surrounded by other low-lying houses as well as farmlands and fields, the design for this two-story private residence was focused on the site’s flow of light and wind to create a living space that is open to its environment. Entered through a sheltered void at the center of the layout, a tunnel-like passageway tapers inwards along its spine, reaching from one end to the other with a second-story landing.
Stationed in a sparse residential plot, the interior of this single-story home pivots around a glazed room inscribed in the trapezoid-shaped courtyard. The sliding glass doors circulating around the courtyard allow for the dramatically angled walls to be bathed in rays of natural light, becoming open spaces of reflection rather than imposing enclosures.
To see more great houses from Japan, check out Phaidon’s book Jutaku: Japanese Houses