Page H1 . 29 January 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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Patterns of Home
Pattern Two — Creating Rooms, Outside and In :
Outdoor Rooms

ArchWeek Photo

A carefully detailed courtyard functions like a room, with low edges formed by the trellis, a sitting wall that defines the outer edge, and a two-story wing stepping down to the one-story pavilion.
Photo: David Duncan Livingston


The roots of this pattern lie in a combination of ecological, psychological, and aesthetic factors. From an ecological point of view, rooms can be thought of as habitats. And outdoor rooms are outdoor habitats more likely to be lived in and used and more likely, therefore, to be cared for and improved when they are defined and tempered by the very building that is their users' primary habitat. A building that helps shape a courtyard, a greenhouse/ garden room that helps shape its garden, a balcony that animates the patio below all illustrate cases in which the home, itself the primary "nest," is used to boldly delineate the outdoors immediately beside it.

In such cases, the presence of the building, if properly oriented to sun, shade, and wind, can create a microclimate and temper the outdoor room, making it all the more appealing. By comparison, outdoor areas that are largely leftover spaces, dissociated from the interiors where people gather, tend never to become rooms of everyday use and are thus apt to be neglected.

The psychological basis for the pattern stems from the need for defensible outdoor space space that is both enclosed enough to be securely ours and open enough to be part of a greater natural order. This helps explain why an outdoor space, shaped by the home it serves, provides such pleasure. Perhaps the great secret contained by this pattern is that, just as deeply as we long for shelter, we long for sheltered gardens. And the homes that stir our souls are places that in single strokes create both.

ArchWeek Photo

The form of the house, while continuing to shape its interior rooms, also boldly shapes its exterior rooms.
Image: Taunton Press

ArchWeek Photo

In effect, this house contains two living rooms: the indoor one and its outdoor equivalent. A generous opening between the two helps knit them together.
Photo: David Duncan Livingston

ArchWeek Photo

A house and the space around it can become an interlocking whole, each shaping the other.
Image: Taunton Press

Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

Aesthetically, the pattern tends to create rich and interesting quilt-like geometries of indoor/ outdoor space. These mosaic patterns, inherently more complex, ambiguous, and replete with order than their suburban cousins, are satisfying because they are better integrated. Houses and sites that incorporate this pattern are like paintings in which the so-called negative space is as positively and imaginatively shaped as the foreground itself.



Part of the ArchitectureWeek Patterns series. Text and images excerpted with permission from Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow, copyright © 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc. The book is available from The Taunton Press and at

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