the courtyard variations

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More than just a Bach reference, that title could really be the title of this entire blog, since the vast majority of what I post here are really just different takes on courtyards.  Blame it on my being a SoCal native, blame it on my love of squares, palazzi, and any other architectural trope you can.  I love me some courtyards.  So here we go again.  At the top, a more detailed elevation of a previous project, and below, a different take on that same floor plan, this time more loudly echoing Giorgio Grassi and Louis Kahn.

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a house in four towers

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Today, I’ve got something a little odd here at frame, four ‘L’-shaped towers surrounding a nine-square cubic courtyard.  The exterior walls are bare brick, but for small observatories in the upper corners.  The ‘house’ itself is broken into four independent towers, with public spaces grouped on the ground floor, connected via the large tree-filled courtyard, which acts as the main living room of the house, with baths and bedrooms located on the upper tower floors.  In contrast to the bare brick exterior, the courtyard walls are detailed in a strict classical vocabulary, with pilaster colonnades wrapping floor upon floor.

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yet another courtyard

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I normally like to post a number of drawings of the same project together, but I’ve been backlogged with scanning in some of my sketchbooks.  Excuses aside, here’s a plan.  A courtyard plan.  Another courtyard plan: square court in a square volume, off-center to allow for a variety in the sizes of the surrounding rooms, but on axis from the entry to the rear porch.  Large modern floor-to-ceiling windows paired against vernacular hipped roofs.  Elevations, sections, and details forthcoming.  Ti promeso.

cabins & courtyards

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As a part of my Christmas traditions, my family and I spend a weekend in the mountains here in Southern California, where we can play ‘winter’ and ‘snow’ and safely return to our warm weather when our fingers are sufficiently numb.  The so-called ‘cabins’ we stay in are often over-sized log mansions, and kitschy as can be expected.

This project is an answer to them: a simple nine-square plan with a central courtyard, and a circular infinity-edge spa at the middle; the kitchen-dining-living trio lines the north edge, with sliding glass walls fronting a supposed lake view; and private sleeping quarters located on the lower level.

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square church, once more

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Continuing the formal explorations of the German hallenkirche typology of a few weeks ago, today I’ll share some more detailed takes: from a traditional half plan and section to oblique wormseye axonometrics and a section of the Brunelleschi-esque cupola with half a traditional oblique axon on one side and a womseye axon on the other.  These interrogations of representation are not just fun to draw, but actually aid in figuring out exactly how the timber roof is made up, and how that roof relates to the overall modular system.

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nine squares, a few circles, and a couple piloti

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The story of where these ideas come from is a hodgepodge, so let’s just talk about what this is: a circular atrium in the middle of a nine-square plan demarcated with Corbusian piloti-cum-columns, with its four corners filled with circles: two circles are set up as objects, while two others are strung together with a larger radius.  All of this sits below a blank square volume, continuing the allusion to Villa Savoy, with a strong gable at the roof line.

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churches and squares

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Most of the church forms I’ve featured have been basilicas – that is, long linear rooms with clearly defined axes and a higher central nave with lower side aisles.  But recently, I tried to reconcile my basilican interests with my predilection for squares.  Enter two historical church types based on the nine-square motif: the German hallenkirche (hall church), where there is no clear distinction between nave and aisles, but rather a large, open ‘hall’ of columns with extensive windows on all sides, and the Greek cross-in-squarein which a cruciform church plan is contained in a square form, with a large dome over the central crossing.  This project fuses the two, with an intense wood roof structure that attempts to read as both the hallenkirche and the cross-in-square in one, and goes even further to render the space as a cube.

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a modern courtyard

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My brother is kind of infatuated with mid-century modernism, with volumes on Palm Springs and Neutra strewn about his house.  So naturally, I began to tinker with what I might do with the tropes of ‘MCM’, and how I might incorporate it into my own tendencies of modular, square plans.  This plan again plays on ideas of four and nine-squares, with brick walls surrounding three sides of a square, one half of which is dedicated to the interior domestic spaces and the other is given over to the exterior with a brick patio, wood deck, gravel garden, and a pool.  The timber-framed living volume is flanked by a service bar in which a small entry courtyard is situated.

I’m not happy with the pool, and am tempted to try it on center rather than the side. . .

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a courtyard in the desert

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My brother-in-law lives in a small military town in the Mojave desert, and when he mentioned buying cheap land and building something, naturally I got thinking.  Courtyard typologies sprang to mind, perhaps met with elements of pueblo adobe rectangular masses and carved wood porches.  My plan offers a square adobe mass punctured with a circular courtyard and fountain at its center (evaporative cooling), and is rimmed with wood porches about to enjoy the expansive desert vistas, and to offer deep shade to any exterior openings.

While traces of Irving Gill abound in the reductive classical-vernacular language, the plan geometries posed a small problem, reconciling the circular interior form and the division of rectangular rooms about.  I turned to Palladio’s Villa Capra (La Rotonda) for help, but also needed to situate the rooms of a modern single family residence, and thought Frank Lloyd Wright’s Cheney House might work.

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