The Courtyard Inside and Out: a Brief History of an Architectural Ambiguity

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Robert Nelson


Observing several advantages of architecture that incorporates an internal courtyard, this paper traces the history of the motif through the evidence of building archetypes and lexical and literary records.  Despite the literal centrality of courtyards to so many traditions of urban construction, the motif proves quite weak in contemporary architecture.  The article gives several reasons for this decline in popularity and proposes that the very words used to describe courtyards are partly to blame for the poor traction of this adorable feature.  In the process of describing the many historical responses to courtyards, the article conducts a phenomenology of this remarkable 'void' in the middle of a building that has so much social presence.

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Nelson, R. “The Courtyard Inside and Out: A Brief History of an Architectural Ambiguity”. Enquiry The ARCC Journal for Architectural Research, Vol. 11, no. 1, Dec. 2014, p. 10, doi:10.17831/enq:arcc.v11i1.206.
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Robert Nelson, Monash University

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Office of the Vice-Provost (Learning and Teaching)

Monash University


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