Page H1 . 12 February 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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    Patterns of Home
    Pattern Two — Creating Rooms, Outside and In :
    A Quilt of Courts and Rooms

    ArchWeek Photo

    The two-story portion of the house provides a strong back to the court. The flanking one-story wings give the court a comfortable scale.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston


    The site plan for this small home in West Marin, California, by architect Cass Calder Smith, is a perfect example of the pattern in action. Three buildings are located on the site: a carport, an L-shaped main house, and a bedroom wing. These structures are located to orient the major indoor rooms of the house — living, dining, and so on — and to create an interconnected sequence of outdoor spaces. To clarify the way the pattern works, two colors are overlaid on the plan: green for the major outdoor rooms and red for the indoor rooms.

    It's interesting to note that all the colored shapes are "positive" shapes, shapes that have an identifiable form and feel whole, not exactly squares or rectangles, but square- and rectangular-ish. The rectangles are never longer than 2:1, so they retain the quality of a comfortable indoor room.

    Each of the spaces is defined by elements of the building and aspects of the site. There are almost no "negative" spaces, those leftover places —often found between the major rooms —that are hard to define and to make usable. The entire site is like a quilt of interlocking, well-shaped rooms.

    ArchWeek Photo

    The major outdoor rooms (green) and indoor rooms (red) are all "positive" shapes.
    Image: Taunton Press

    ArchWeek Photo

    In checkerboard fashion, the carport and two-story wall create a second outdoor room: a pedestrian entry court that acts as a transitional place between the car court and the main court.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    ArchWeek Photo

    Like a front door into a house, the gate pivots into the main court. Two trellises overlap to intensify the point of entry into the main court.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

    In terms of the pattern, the most important rooms on the site plan are the living room, the dining room/study, and the south-facing central courtyard that is in part defined by these spaces.

    This trio of spaces forms the central common area: the living room and dining room define and anchor the courtyard, which in turn provides an intimate outdoor room into which the living and dining rooms open.

    A key reason for organizing the site this way was to use the house as a buffer against the prevailing northerly winds, creating a protected courtyard open to a view. In this climate, where days are often sunny but cool, the building tempers the microclimate of the court, making it a comfortable room.


    Patterns of Home



    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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