Courtyards in the landscape as enclosed patios

Courtyards in the landscape remind us of the town square where everyone could get together and connect — and to feel a part of the greater community.  Courtyards by definition are open air, outdoor spaces which evolved from the atrium as areas within a building that was open to the sky.

Castles and palaces often were built surrounding a central courtyard or series of courtyards. The origin of the word Paradise, comes from the old Persian word Paridisio which means “walled garden”.  This concept led to the evolution of courtyards in the landscape originally functioning as enclosed patios or gardens.

A private courtyard in someone’s home is more of a walled garden space that is  private and secure to the degree that it is walled off and gated and adds much more useable space that would otherwise not be private.

Courtyards are not limited to areas near the entrance of a home. They can be created in any area where buildings form at least a portion of the sides so as to create enclosure. Additional walls can be built to form further enclosure.

If the entrances to the two buildings below were connected together by only a narrow walkway, the space would not have the expansiveness that defines a courtyard.

Courtyard with wall fountains

This courtyard below features the central fountain designed in a European style with colorful tiles and classic statuary. The flower beds soften the otherwise large expanse of clay surface and creates an inner walking area.

Courtyard built around central fountain

Courtyards built in the front of a home can add curb appeal where the front door is not visible from the street. A gated courtyard signals the entry point that leads to the actual front door but serves visually as a substitute front door. This courtyard allows views over the low wall which is more inviting and welcoming than if it were six feet tall with a solid gate.

Some people feel that a true courtyard is one that visually separates you from the outside and should have walls high enough to do so. This affords additional privacy and a sense of security that courtyards with low walls do not.

courtyard with low wall

A low courtyard wall serves only to delineate public space from private space similar to a front porch which separates the front yard area from the house. Any type of courtyard however extends the usability of the property as additional outdoor living space beyond the normal backyard.

courtyard with arched gate

Courtyards can be considered a type of outdoor room when they are extensions of the adjacent interior living areas. Adorned with pots and furniture, they become functional patio spaces and allow for ease of movement between the inside and the outdoors. A courtyard that was primarily used as a lawn area or extensive gardens or perhaps a pond would not have the same feeling as a courtyard that had more paved surface. If it was large enough to accommodate both seating areas and garden features however, then it would function as a multiple use type of courtyard.