The Telegram (St. John's)

Internal courtyards, atriums offer connection to nature


There is a growing demand for atriums and internal courtyards in home design, says Michael Leckie, principal architect at Leckie Studio Architectu­re + Design.

Both concepts are thousands of years old, with interior courtyards favoured by the ancient Romans and throughout history in Asia, says Leckie. Atriums and internal courtyards offer home dwellers quiet solitude and a connection to nature even if they live in a densely populated city.

“I think the big advantage of the courtyard is that it’s a private space. When we’re dealing with architectu­re in a public-private way, people love the idea of big windows, but nobody wants to live in a fishbowl,” he says.

It’s the opposite of investing in a front or backyard, reflecting a desire to look inwards, says Leckie.

“They’re a space of contemplat­ion, a space to look into, a space to reflect on the passage of time, our place in the universe, our own mortality,” he says. This kind of philosophi­cal and existentia­l contemplat­ion doesn’t always happen quite the same way if we’re sitting in our home office and looking out the window at the street.

These internal courtyards are planted and landscaped in specific ways that allow a home’s inhabitant­s to notice daily or seasonal cycles. The dew on the plant leaves, the way plants and vegetation open up when the sun hits them, and the sound and smell of rain, says Leckie.

Internal courtyards are a way to connect with nature that doesn’t involve going outside and coming home. And, because we’ve all spent so much more time at home lately, it’s only natural that people are looking more deeply at ways they can transform their homes, he adds.

The interior courtyards Leckie Studio is designing for clients are typically quite small in size, so often don’t have room to accommodat­e furniture. There hasn’t been a big demand for water features in recent work, but they are rich with plants. “Mostly we’re designing them as spaces you move through, or you might have access to manicure or maintain the planting, but the idea is when you open the doors, you lose track of inside and outside,” he says. Common design features with these courtyards are walls made from full-height glazing (glass) and considerat­ion of the “movement of air.”

You can create areas like this in your home, without having an internal courtyard, by simply finding a sunny place in your condo or house and creating an indoor garden, Leckie explains. “These are different iterations of a biophilic approach to living, and there’s scientific evidence to prove or document there is a wide range of benefits to this connection to nature in whichever form.”

People are wanting to give over some of their home’s footprint to planting instead of maximizing every liveable square foot, signalling a change in the way they’re thinking about housing in Vancouver, says Leckie.

“We feel very fortunate to work with clients, whether it’s a condo or single-family house, who are saying we’re not trying to maximize the resale floor areas of this project but focusing on the quality of space and connection to nature,” he says. “It’s an amazing opportunit­y to find alignment with clients who are embodying Dieter Rams’ famous ethos of less, but better. Less space but better quality of space.”

 ?? CONRAD BROWN ?? Vancouver penthouse apartment designed by Leckie Studio featuring an internal courtyard.
CONRAD BROWN Vancouver penthouse apartment designed by Leckie Studio featuring an internal courtyard.

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