The Landscape Guide

*Courtyard -100 

See Style Chart

Use: Space within walled cities was always valuable and expensive. Only the rich could afford small gardens. The poor lived in a single room with a door opening onto the street and no windows. Courtyards were made for specialised purposes, broadly similar to those of the Egyptian domestic garden: outdoor eating, entertaining, growing plants. In towns, they had to be enclosed by high walls owing to the proximity of neighbours and the demands of security and privacy. Walls also created an urban climate, warm in winter and cool in summer.

Form: Three types of courtyard were made, with wealthy city dwellers having one of each type:

1. a yard (atrium) in the centre of the dwelling giving access to other rooms and to the street. The atrium served as a lightwell and ventilation shaft. It was either paved or slightly recessed to catch rainwater.

2. a colonaded yard (peristyle) ornamented and used as an outdoor living and dining room. The roofed colondade on the perimeter functioned as a corridor giving access to bedrooms and living rooms. The enclosed yard had pools, fountains, shrubs, flowers, statues and a small shrine. Evergreens were favoured: bay, myrtle, oleander, rosemary, box and ivy. In flowers, the Romans liked the rose, iris, lily, violet, daisy, poppy and chrysanthemum.

3. a horticultural space (xystus) was used for flowers and vegetables and might be decorated with statues, a pavilion and a water features.


Conimbriga, J Paul Getty Museum and Garden, Pompeii, Priene,