More Courtyard Plans

Power Patios, Part Deux

Last week’s post on courtyard houses prompted some great suggestions from readers. Sydney, Australia architect and heritage specialist Matthew Devine told me about the house that mid-century modern Melbourne architect Roy Grounds

designed and built for his family in 1953, shown above as a model in the collection of Museum Victoria. Every major room in the almost square house

looks into the round courtyard at the center (photos above courtesy The Design Files). This flagstone-paved outdoor room provides light, air, and privacy.

Balanced light comes from the band of clerestory windows just below the roof

line (two previous photos courtesy A Sculpture for Living blogspot). Roy Grounds would have known the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and could

well have been playing off Wright’s “Solar Hemicycle” of 1944 for the Herbert Jacobs family in Middleton, Wisconsin, an early example of passive solar design.

Tucked into a berm, the Jacobs house opens to the curving central courtyard, which completes the circle — effectively cinching structure to site. For a less rural, more urban setting Roy Grounds simply completed the circle with the other half of the building and made everything more compact (photo courtesy

Ted Bosley, director of the landmark Gamble House in Pasadena by the Greene Brothers, thought of an important early precedent for the courtyard-oriented

dwelling in the Arturo Bandini ranch house by the Greenes, of 1903. This U-shaped structure is almost all courtyard: the house itself is only one room wide. The covered walkway that wraps around the open space functions as a transitional living space. And each post rests on a beautiful stone base, adding a touch of Japanesque refinement to what is otherwise a very rustic design. This

example reminded me, in turn, of Cliff May, who took the Spanish California courtyard and ran with it all the way from San Diego to Europe and beyond (V-shape plan, ca. 1933, courtesy Architecture Collection, Art, Design & Architecture Museum, U. C. Santa Barbara). William Wurster took the

courtyard to a logical extreme, as in his Butler vacation house near Santa Cruz of 1934 — really a courtyard surrounded by four simple pavilions, like a benign

stockade.  Then he “internalized” it in his Case Study House #3, in Los Angeles of 1947 — our historic Plan 529-1 — by turning it into a garden room or porch between the two main wings. There are so many ways to pitch a patio!



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