The means of the courtyard

The archaeological testimonies give documentary evidence of courtyard houses in the region of Caldea, four thousand years before our age, or in Crete, two thousand years before. More recent and familiar is for us the evolution of domestic courtyards in Greece and Rome. When we talk about the courtyard in the Mediterranean housing we make it as an inseparable partner, the most natural thermic shock-absorbing, the cheapest room for nice seasons, the most efficient regulator of intense light of the south, the most sustainable gadget of evaporative conditioning, even more if it also has a fountain and vegetation.

Why the most natural thing in our surroundings for housing is not for the working spaces? Why do we deeply import landscape office models, blocks or even towers? Working is no other thing than to live the space while we are paid because of what we do. Can’t we require housing benefits like the ones we demand for houses? Or useful criteria of natural light, ventilation or the kind of fresh that we find in the residential net of our Mediterranean cities.

Our trajectory in the territory of collective housing has found a proper line in the manipulation of communitarian galleries and courtyards. From that works is easy to realise that this search is at the origin of the movement from “recurso al patio” to the projects of working spaces. Those who examine the scheme of the floor of our building for the Emasesa offices will find the archetype of “galleries along a sequence of courtyards” that comes from our proposals of collective housing. Designing administrative spaces with these cells of air in the same way as the residential net of a compact Mediterranean city has many advantages, in contrast with the dispositions of landscape office, which is more like a laminar block or tower type: natural distributed light, crossed natural ventilations, spaces of circulation with an environmental quality, urban miniature sequences, etc.

Regarding the Emasesa building the courtyards are “domestic” and “from Seville” not in their material appearance (dominated by steel, glass and wood) but rather in their scale and proportion: that of a courtyard house filled with vegetation in jardinières (to the desperation of Fernando Alda, our photographer, who would have preferred less “marujos” (gossip-like) courtyards when he tried to avoid them on his points of view).

The theory of galleries of urban character and courtyards along them was taken to other proposals of office buildings, like the one for the Emasesa building at Isla de la Cartuja or the building for offices for the Junta de Andalucía at Polígono San Pablo. In these cases the courtyards are out of the central axis of the ensemble and placed as counterweights at the perimeter, directly referring to our residential projects. Vegetation does not hang from them but it grows inside the courtyards, as they are proposed to be the thermal evaporative shock-absorbing component.

The space of work could be something really habitable, so natural in its relation with the air and the sunlight like any Mediterranean house, and so we are surprised by the insistence of identifying our office buildings with the totemic tower or that of the hermetic prism. Our kind of weather, the scale of our cities, or the available space, would recommend other options. [1]

[1] It could be read as an indirect comment referring to the famous Pelli Tower of Seville, which can only be understood as a will to create an expressive symbol of the economic power that promotes it., unconnected with any functional, urban or environmental criteria

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