A seasonal cycle of light and shadow, and more especially of heat and cold, structures life within east-west-elongated courtyards. There are daily changes as well. But it is the seasons that are most intensely felt because of the dominating effect of deep shadows cast by the long wall on the south edge of the courtyard.
Again, the diagrammatic example shows a simple courtyard. Massing will affect courtyard shadows here as well. But even when the massing is more complex, the basic rhythm of change remains seasonal.
In Los Angeles, with prevailing summer winds from the west and winter sun from the south, a courtyard orientation that works with the sun can work against the wind and vice versa. This is an especially critical factor in designing a courtyard cover if the
Courtyards Elongated East-West: (Top) Midday, winter, the patio is completely in shadow; (Bottom) Midday, summer, the patio is nearly all in direct sun and requires protection. (North is up.)
space beneath it is to be a garden where people habitually go to relax or even to spend some part of their working day outside their offices.
Contradictions between sun and wind in courtyards of either orientation are resolved by using the interstitium. Adjustable structures can expand upward during hot summer months, catching ocean breezes from the west and simultaneously shading the courtyard. During winter, when the sun is lower and there is less need for ventilation in the courtyard, the cover withdraws, opening the courtyard again to the sky. In most cases, by providing ample space for such a structure to float freely, the interstitium offers a way to give year-round comfort by low-energy means. But orientation and surroundings make all the difference.
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