• Tolulope Sanusi

Interior Courtyards: Reintroducing Tropical Elements Into Contemporary Nigerian Architecture

Lagos homes today have a very compact footprint, a win-win situation between housing developers and exorbitant land prices but does the homeowner benefit?

There's a direct connection between a well designed home and good health. Nigeria is a tropical climate country and so her architecture should reflect that but it doesn't. Choked up homes, very little natural ventilation or light gets into most homes today in Lagos. Profits come first and the fashion (or madness) of western styles windows meant for colder regions is here to stay.

Of course that means in lay terms, mechanical cooling i.e A/c units 24/7, and more lights on even during the day for the central areas with no natural light. Our pockets suffer, our bodies and our mental health suffers the longer we stay inside. If the power is out your guess is as good as mine no matter how beautiful the home is inside, nobody will want to stay in hot and dim rooms.

Lagos used to have tropical style architecture but the modernization of homes didn't carry those principles along, a very different case to other similarly developing countries with tropical climates like ours but who have fully embraced and integrated tropical design into modern homes. Examples of such countries are Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil and Vietnam.

This could be partially attributed to colonialism, the British built modified temperate designs when they came here, disregarding the courtyard design because it is not a feature in colder climates and so we have adopted a fortified home ideology. There’s a brilliant article that does a deeper dive into this aspect, linked here - The Article. If you'd like to uncover the unconscious ideas that have governed our architecture.

Firstly what are interior courtyards and why are they necessary in tropical homes?

Architecturally, courtyards add a design element that creates connectivity between interior and exterior space. Unlike a yard, courtyards carved out in the center of a building provide a private tranquil space for homeowners, or buffered space for apartment dwellers.

Design-wise, courtyards make perfect sense. They give the residents of a home a private outdoor space, which is secure and usable throughout the day. With its natural ventilation, a courtyard helps the house stay appropriately warm or cool without the need for heaters and air conditioners.

The image above shows a home with a courtyard as well as a double facade with planting to reduce heat gain and further cool the home.
A home with a courtyard as well as a double facade with planting to reduce heat gain and further cool the home.

In a warm climate, a courtyard can bring down the house’s temperature, saving on energy bills. Courtyards can also include natural cooling elements as a part of their design like a fountain, a basin, an artificial waterfall, a plant wall, thick external walls and double-glazed windows.

Now that we know and understand the importance of courtyards let’s look at 7 residential designs with small footprints that have in-built tropical design features including double height areas and a bonus project.

7. B House / I.House Architecture and Construction


Area: 82

A home courtyard. B House by I.House Architecture and Construction
B House / i.House Architecture and Construction. Images courtesy Archdaily

This home was designed with efficiency and comfort in mind, all the while mitigating noise and air pollution.

Text description provided by the architects. The house is located not too deep in a rather quiet lane on the outskirts of Saigon. Like many houses in Vietnam, it has constantly exposed to the bustling surroundings as dust, heat, noise etc. Because of these factors, the house owner (also active in designing industry) pretty much sharing with us in a decision to make the more active space would be inward - "introverted" to build the core with buffer spaces of green trees. In other words, the open space is the highest priority in the designing process for the family's generations to interact with each other.

Images courtesy Archdaily

The specific criteria for the house are laid out as:

Open space but "introverted"; simple, rustic but delicate. Give priority to natural lighting and ventilation. Reduce the dependence on and maximum savings of artificial energy. Borrow light and shadow for decoration, make the most of cool air, but must control heat, noise and ensure security for the house. Respect the owner's living culture and lifestyle.

6. The Nắng Suites / o9 Design Studio


Area: 500

The Nắng Suites by o9 Design Studio
The Nắng Suites by o9 Design Studio. Images courtesy Archdaily

This apartment building used the courtyard and ground floor as communal areas, perfectly utilizing the planting as screening between opposing apartments

Text description provided by the architects.The Nắng Suites are located near the seafront of the coastal city of Da Nang, 500m away from My Khe beach. The philosophy of The Nắng encourages communality as opposed to anonymity. Designed to meet the needs of both short and long-term guests, it is important that a sense of homeliness is fostered, no matter the duration of the stay. Working within the spatial planning constraints, a vertical void through the heart of the building creates internal open space in a neighborhood characterized by narrow, tightly packed tube houses.

The 4-storey building is organised into two distinct elements - private and communal. All eight of the suites are on the upper floors, spaced around perpendicular sides of the central void for privacy/autonomy. The ground floor area serves as the co-living hub consisting of a kitchenette, dining table, lounge, library, movie room, laundry room and parking spaces. From the street the building has the appearance of neatly stacked blocks. On its exterior, alternating floor to ceiling wood paneled walls and large windows create a rhythm of solidity and light. A hand-woven, multi-panel screen door forms the entire façade of the ground floor. It invites natural elements into the building - diffusing the intensity of the sunlight, and maximizing air circulation. As you enter, the dramatic vertical void acts as a bridge between an outside and inside world.

5. HL house / APDI


Area: 350

HL house by APDI
HL house by APDI. Images courtesy Archdaily

A 3 storey home with a courtyard on the building perimeter, the water basin acts as an coolant instead of planting.

Text description provided by the architects.Urban Issues. Semi-detached house in the new urban area is very popular type of house in Vietnam. Although restrictions of designing un-follow to planning in the split plot house, the new urban areas are now becoming soulless with old, poor, repeated architectural with layout "stairs between divided" which is out of date. The construction of a new house in the current urban area. Besides, the house will meet modern standards with the breakthrough in spatial structure, creates a harmonize architectural in the whole.

HL house Section.

4. House Enfold / TOUCH Architect


Area: 265

Living Area in House Enfold by TOUCH Architect.
House Enfold by TOUCH Architect. Images courtesy Archdaily

This beautiful home exposed the courtyard to the sky and wrapped it in glass, allowing for natural light and in selective places access to it.

Text description provided by the architects.Minimum land size for a single-detached house in Thailand following the building regulations which is 200 square meters, defined space for a small single house. It was designed for a single-family recently married, who wants to fit in all functions, consist of 3-bedroom, and 2-bathroom.

As a further matter, climate concern is another key design for this small house. Heat avoidance elements on two sides are created. The first one is the ‘Bending shading device’ which is provided at the front part of the house. It helps reduce heat and create more privacy to the 2nd floor bedroom. The staircase is at the Southside, which helps to block heat for the living area. Moreover, the trees are planted along this Southside. Durable materials are used such as aluminum trellis together with substituted material which is wood plastic composite (WPC) instead of using an authentic one, in order to lower maintenance.

3. Coastal House / Prana Architects


Area: 450

Coastal House by Prana Architects
Coastal House by Prana Architects. Images courtesy Archdaily

The courtyard in this beach-front home favours vines and planting opening to the side allowing for natural light from 2 points.

Text description provided by the architects. Located in a small and peaceful coastal village in Vung Tau, Vietnam, this house was designed for a family of 3 members leaving the busy city to live and start a home-stay business. Thanks to minimalist design and cutting down unnecessary items, the house creates gentle living energy which makes the host toward nature entirely.

The strategy was to separate building into two parts with the skylight and green space in the center while the ground floor is opened completely.The design provides convenient solution of natural ventilation, bright sunlight and fresh air to every single corner of the house which are often limited due to long and narrow townhouse. It also provides open view from bedrooms gathering around this skylight to surround through a huge glass wall beside center green space, therefore naturally connect indoor life with outdoor coastal life.

Coastal House Section by Prana Architects
Coastal House Section by Prana Architects

2. Jardins House / CR2 Arquitetura


Jardins House by CR2 Arquitetura
Jardins House by CR2 Arquitetura. Images courtesy Archdaily

A modest 1-storey home with an open-air courtyard done as a mini-garden with brick screening enclosing it from street view.

Text description provided by the architects.This residence in São Paulo is a project for a middle-aged couple and a daughter. Neighborhood residents wanted to continue living there, but not in an apartment. The site they found, in a small street, housed an industrial kitchen that occupied 100% of the lot. This building had no architectural value and no concern for sunlight and ventilation. The project arose from the idea of a mini respite in the urban landscape.

The large concrete box of the first floor is the concept of the house. The box has tears, creating voids that illuminate without penetrating the privacy of the residents of the house, which is in the heart of a neighborhood predominantly comprised of buildings. The voids are filled with lush and contemplative gardens, which can be viewed from all environments, creating a visual connection between the ground and the first floor. Another important point in this connection is the double height of the living room, which allows a clear understanding of the house.

1. Gedda House / Mustafá Bucar Arquitetura


Area: 360

Gedda House by Mustafá Bucar Arquitetura
Gedda House by Mustafá Bucar Arquitetura. Images courtesy Archdaily

A very stylish 3-bed home with a surprisingly large courtyard of white stone flooring open to the air.

Text description provided by the architects.Supported on a panel of hydraulic tiles, a marquee with 5 meters in balance invites to the surprise of the courtyard, a small lot with a small patio.

The 360sqm of the house are divided in three well-defined sectors: service, intimate and social. This last one is formed by the integration of the living room, television room, dining room and a small courtyard, where the opening of the glass doors form a large balcony. The whole house has a low ceiling of 2.60 meters that creates a sensation of coziness, except in the living room whose ceiling is sloped, creating an opening that allows the entry of sunlight.

And for those with more land space to play with,

PK79 / Ayutt and Associates Design


Area: 650

PK79 by Ayutt and Associates Design
PK79 by Ayutt and Associates Design. Images courtesy Archdaily

Text description provided by the architects. PK79 is located on Petchkasem 79 road,Bangkok, Thailand where is known as the suburban residential area. The site location is in the middle of wasteland zone, remotely from the city and low density of population effected directly to the safety issue. The neighborhoods of this area live quite far apart from each other. The security issue becomes the main problem for this area and Thai architecture. Most of households solve this problem by adding the “wrought iron screens” as a protection screen to all doors and windows preventing thieves or other invaders.

AAd also creates the program of this house by dividing the function between daytime area and nighttime area. The daytime area is on the lower floor, Living zones,  with full connection to the outside and the garden. This area is designed as “THE WHITE box”  with the solid white wall and the white vertical protection screen. These white aluminum extrusion strips are developed and applied from the normal obsolete security curve steel, to disappear and blend with the landscape outside. Most of living areas are directly connected to the garden with sliding partitions allow the air flow through into the double height space to reduce the heat for tropical climate. The location in the middle of two courtyards give rises to the people feel connected between inside and outside. The service function is divided by a kitchen which located in a place where it can serve people in living area and all zones. The guest bedroom behind has been defined by pocket courtyard to increase more privacy, and provide dramatic spatial quality for corridor in the middle.

To see more design inspirations, check out our Pinterest Board - Interior Courtyards.

#Architecture #TropicalDesign #Lagos #NigerianArchitecture #Residential #Courtyards

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