Interior courtyards can be found in various types of traditional architectures around the world, especially in warmer climates. They can be classified as introverted, safe, and even sacred spaces in some cultures. They can also be gathering places and, above all, provide greater contact with nature while providing light and ventilation to home interiors. To properly design these spaces and create a functional relationship between the inside of a house and its courtyard, it is important to use appropriate doors and openings. In this article we highlight 5 projects that use sliding glass doors for the seamless integration of both spaces.
“Traditionally, homes were created as shelter. We wanted to take that idea but also wanted to connect humans back to nature.” Cavin Costello, principal architect of the Ranch Mine, says about a one floor house located in the extreme climate of Phoenix, Arizona. The project is situated in the Sonora desert, rising at just 12.5 feet above the landscape, powered by solar energy, and surrounded by the local arid landscape. The house covers 4,090 square feet and was designed in an O-shape with a courtyard centerpiece.
The interior courtyard acts as a micro-climate inside the house, and as a safe space for the dogs to be protected from desert predators. The courtyard is accessed through Series 600 Multi-Slide Doors and framed by a floor-to-ceiling Series 600 Window Wall. In addition to the courtyard's natural ventilation, another strategy for mitigating the high temperatures of Phoenix summers was the use of Western Window Systems products with low-E, argon-filled glass, which improved the project's thermal transmittance and reduced energy use.
This waterfront residence in Long Island, designed by Resolution: 4 Architecture, opted for economic, ecological solutions that allowed for design versatility. The house, designed as a weekend retreat for the family and a seasonal home for the grandparents, was lifted with two ready-made sections set on a sturdy steel frame and clad in corrugated aluminum siding.
Although its exterior has reduced openings, the house is centered around a wide patio and deck with seemingly limitless views. It encompasses the home's bedroom and living areas, integrating them into a simple pleasant and open space. Series 600 Sliding Glass Doors create a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors, demonstrating that even a small house can appear more expansive when generous openings are included in the design.
In this project, HK Associate architects had to deal with an unusual demand. They had to organize the layout in a way that was favorable for the clients' pets. More specifically, more than a dozen rescued cats that needed to live in three independent colonies. The solution was a 3,500 square foot house with a free-flowing floor plan with a series of courtyards where the abundant natural light of Tucson, Arizona, fills the inside and where the cats can reside in their own colonies.
The several courtyards are distributed throughout the house, bringing light and ventilation to the project while creating comfortable habitats for the feline inhabitants. The main courtyard is U-shaped and there is a series of four smaller courtyards that create spaces that integrate both the interior and exterior. "There is the illusion that from certain angles all the courtyards are connected. It’s interesting because you can look from one courtyard through the inside of the home through another courtyard through another courtyard to the outside of the home,” says Michael Kothke, one of the architects responsible for the project.
For the largest openings such as those in the living room, kitchen and dining area– four-panel Western Window Systems Series 600 Multi-Slide Doors were used. They allowed the interior to merge with the outdoors and lets in natural light and fresh air that courses through the open floor plan. In the bedrooms and office, Series 600 Sliding Doors are flanked by huge floor-to-ceiling fixed windows from Western Window Systems, as a slightly more budget-friendly option that allows for full visual integration.
In this house, designed by Tai Ikegami in Palo Alto, California, the landscape is the protagonist. For this reason, the architect chose to keep the material palette as contained as possible: exposed concrete and wood, combined with large amounts of diffused natural light, allowed the architecture to feel connected to the natural elements. The project is divided into three pavilions, each with its own outdoor areas and unique natural views. They were designed to avoid cutting the roots of the large trees nearby. The result was a set of strong horizontal lines that made the most of the glass extensions which account for almost 50% of the home's surfaces.
“Each area of the house has its own courtyard. It was about creating these individual vignettes of outdoor experiences that you can participate in while you’re inside. So, having floor-to-ceiling glass units, whether it’s big picture frame windows or large sliding doors, was a huge part of our design”, Ikegami says. The Western Window Systems frames used created unobstructed views, especially when facing the internal courtyards, through delicate profiles.
Designed by Blue Heron, this luxury house in Las Vegas makes extensive use of transparency to integrate interior and exterior. The coating materials also allow the volume to connect with the location; whether it is the land, vegetation, or the late afternoon sky of the Nevada desert. An L-shaped floor plan employs classic passive design features, placing the home’s primary living areas facing northwest for a view of the city, while the bedrooms occupy the rear to reduce afternoon solar heat gain.
With extensive use of glass throughout the house, the visual barriers between inside and outside were removed through the Western Window Systems pocketing Series 600 Multi-Slide Doors, which retract into pockets, transforming the main living areas into open-air pavilions. The limits between the two spaces are blurred, creating a feeling that the courtyards are part of the interior spaces, and vice versa. The scale of the moving glass walls, the technical requirements created by the mountain winds, and the perfect mixture of indoor and outdoor spaces have made this project incredibly complex.
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