As the final assignment of the course ARCH 221, I decided the “transition” as a concept that is in relation to the experience of space and also my architectural element is “courtyard”. Transition is one of the basic concepts of architecture. It is cannot only passing from open space to closed space, but also it connects between everything which have different qualities such as from narrow space to large and from regular to irregular. In short, it act as a bridge.
When looking at the history of architecture, there are many various spaces which enable transition parts. One of them is the courtyard. Both of them are an integral which complete each other. Courtyards which were private open spaces surrounded by walls or buildings have been in use in residential architecture for almost as long as people have lived in constructed dwellings. The courtyard house has played a major role in people’s life because of the fact that they have been used for many purposes including cooking, sleeping, working, playing. Its function as transition space between outside-inside and between rooms obviously. Courtyard houses consisting of multiple separate residences have been built in many regions and eras and also it changed in time.
When analyzed the forms of courtyards in history, the first courtyard formation was appeared ca. 6400-6000 BC, in the Neolithic Yarmukian site at Sha’ar HaGolan giving the site a special significance in architectural history. There is no clear evidence, but it is understood from the boundaries of the site. The houses consist of a central courtyard surrounded by several small rooms. The using of courtyard started to use in there and moved on in kinds of civilizations in many way. After some time, in Skara Brae, people started to separate to their houses which stands on the far side of a paved open air courtyard. It became a transition part between rooms. Unlike the central courtyard in the settlement, it provided a private life inside the house. Among the Mesopotamian architectural accomplishments are the courtyard house was an important development. The courtyard house was the predominant typology, which has been used in Mesopotamia to the present day. The house has an open courtyard which provided a cooling effect by creating convention currents. It was think that the courtyard was the primary organizing feature of the house, all the rooms opened to it. The Sumerians were the first society to construct the city itself as a built form. When looking at the ancient city of Ur, it is seen that it had a particular order and all of the houses and palaces etc. which had courtyard system. In the Egyptian architecture, we can see the courtyard style in the temples. The best sample is Luxor temple.
The central uncovered area in a Roman domus was referred to as an atrium. We generally use the term courtyard to refer to such an area, reserving the word atrium to describe a glass- covered courtyard. This courtyard also has a central pool used to collect rainwater. On the other hand, civilization of Rome has large public spaces called Forum. These Forums which consist of temples, basilicas, arches, monuments, and other structures were a kinds of a courtyard in the public space. This place enable transition between different structures and also it was for public meeting.
In the same period Greek architecture were maintaining. There were many architectural forms allied successfully. One of them was the Agora (public square)surrounded by storied colonnade and other structures. Agora was a kind of a public courtyard like Roman Forum. When looking at the classical houses, majority of them opened at one side onto a small courtyard which enable light and fresh air. Larger houses has peristyle courtyard at the centre, with the rooms arranged around it. The palace of the Knossos is the good example for the palaces in the ancient Greek. Its main feature was the central courtyard. It provided access to several areas, including a throne room, a central palace sanctuary and a residential quarter, which may have housed royal apartments.
When coming to the medieval age, the style of courtyard houses in the middle east reflect the nomadic influences of the region. In the Romanesque architecture which combining features of ancient Roman and Byzantine and buildings and other local traditions used central courtyard in the monastery and cathedrals. They were enclosed, arched courtyard connecting the different buildings that made up the complex, and serving space for retreat and meditation, and for performing ablutions.
On the other hand, Islamic architecture continue own existence in those terms. It continues from the foundation of Islam to the present day. Undoubtedly, courtyard style developed and used in Islamic architecture. Islamic architecture is the heart of the courtyard. It was used in many mosques, madrasah, caravanserais, baths and palaces. The home of the Prophet Muhammad is considered the first mosque. His house, in Medina in modern-day Saudi Arabia, was a typical 7th-century Arabian style house, with a large courtyard surrounded by long rooms supported by columns. This style of mosque came to be known as a hypostyle mosque, meaning “courtyard with many columns.” The courtyard called ‘sahn’ in the Islamic architecture. Most traditional mosques have a large central sahn, which is surrounded by an arcade on all sides. In the 11th century, a different architectural style occurred. Hypostyle mosques started to be converted into four-iwan mosques, which, as the name indicates, incorporate four iwans in their architectural plan. We can see that this sample in the Jameh mosque of Isfahan. The layout is arranged around a large open courtyard. The courtyard were used for the transition between iwan mosques.
When the Islamic architecture came to the 12th century, on the other hand, gothic architecture occurred after the Romanesque architecture. In this term, many architectural styles began to change. It was used pointed arches in the buildings. Of course, courtyard style affected from that term features. It still used in the cathedrals and monastery such as Porto cathedral.
After the gothic term, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture. In their courtyard, given importance to the horizontal emphasis, contrasting Gothic architecture. The best example for the renaissance term courtyard is Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Open colonnaded inner courtyard at the center of the palace, based on the monastic cloister of medieval times. After that term, in 17century, this style was continued and succeed by Baroque architecture. When looking at the baroque architecture, the best structure was the palace of Versailles.
This is the inner Royal Courtyard of Versailles. In there, people begin to appreciate the amount of gold on the buildings. As part of the free land grant in Versailles, the roofs of the buildings and houses of the new city were not to exceed the level of the Marble Courtyard at the entrance of Versailles so that the perspective from the windows of the palace would not be obstructed.
To sum up, courtyard form was used by many civilization, architectural terms and etc. Courtyards have historically been used for many purposes including cooking, sleeping, working, playing, gardening, and even places to keep animals. They have been designed and built throughout the world with many variations. It changed according to the architectural styles in time, but its purpose of usage in terms of transition not changed.
- Kostof, Spiro (1995).A History of Architecture. Oxford University Press