Page E2.1 . 09 January 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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    Thermal Delight in Courtyards

    by John S. Reynolds

    Perhaps the most satisfying architectural response to the continuously dry topics is the Mediterranean residence centered on a courtyard. With a meager but well-developed water supply, the courtyards feature fountains, ponds, and growing plants for both evaporative cooling and for aesthetic enhancement. But it is the fine-tuning of the courtyard environment its optimization of wall heat resistance, ventilation rate, and evaporation rate that is most satisfying.

    William Lowry and Porter Lowry, Fundamentals of Biometerorology

    Degrees of Control

    The continuum of spaces, ranging in order from least to most environmentally controlled, is open countryside, street, courtyard, arcade, and room. The contrast between less and more comfortable spaces within this continuum greatly increases satisfaction with the latter, most private and personal.

    The most dramatic thermal contrast is often between the street and the courtyard, and it is reinforced by the change from public to private, from barren to florid, noisy to quiet, hard to soft.

    Those of us who expect a constant indoor climate may be surprised to find that dwellers in courtyard buildings often choose the less-controlled arcade for activities, rather than the most-controlled room. Simply put, the arcades are usually more interesting places to be.

    This article is excerpted from Courtyards: Aesthetic, Social, and Thermal Delight by John S. Reynolds, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.   >>>



    ArchWeek Image

    In Oaxaca, Mexico, the courtyard of the Restaurant El Gecko rests in the shade below a thick vine of lavender flowers.
    Photo: John S. Reynolds

    ArchWeek Image

    At the Restaurant Santana, in Salta, Argentina, a contemporary cover of "greenhouse cloth" keeps most of the sun's heat out while allowing the visual contrast of sun and shade.
    Photo: John S. Reynolds


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