The project brief called for the design of four residences for the
deans of business & management, arts & sciences, engineering, and
architecture & design at the American University of Sharjah-UAE, The
original project brief did not specifically request a courtyard; however, the
client supported the architect’s proposal and recognized the benefits in terms
of climate responsiveness and the privacy that the space afforded.
The architect saw this project as an opportunity to illustrate how the courtyard type could become a viable alternative to the stand-alone ‘villa’, to question the ‘traditional/modern dichotomy’ by illustrating how the principles inherent in ‘traditional’ houses could be interpreted and transformed to become the basis for spatial and formal strategies; to demonstrate how the intense climate of the Gulf can be mediated through passive measures; and to contribute to debates on the built environment in the Gulf and the Middle East through a built project.
Design strategies relied on a number of lessons derived from spatial and formal analyses of traditional courtyard houses from the settlements along the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and from other regional courtyard types (e.g. the creation of a micro-climate within the courtyard for thermal comfort, the transition between the interior and the courtyard, the treatment of public and private spaces, the control of views into and through the house, ordering systems and the treatment of the facade).
Nevertheless, the courtyard houses interpret early twentieth-century Gulf architecture to re-conceptualize the traditional in order to move beyond the limitations inherent in the strict categories of ‘traditional’, ‘modern’ and ‘regional’, thus transcending the false oppositions of ‘past’ and ‘present’ to move beyond approaches characterized by mere imitation.
Kevin Mitchell. “Exchange and Adaptation – Notes on an Approach to the Courtyard” in Art and Science & Architecture’s
and Art’s site –specific Projects, edited by Else Marie Bukdahl, D. Phil,
The Royal Danish Academy of Fines Arts’ Schools of Visual Arts, Copenhagen,
2006, pp. 40-46.