Friday, 8 June 2007


Traditional courtyard in Shaikh Isa bin Ali House

Courtyards have been used all around the world almost as early as man has lived in a building. The earliest courtyards were found in Iran and China and date back to 3000 BC (according to wikipedia). However, the use from one region to another is different.

In the Middle East, the courtyard is more of a gathering area for women and children as it was their own private outdoor space instead of loitering in the streets. It can also be a place for cooking, business transactions and livestock.

In China, the courtyard almost always contained a garden and a water feature and is used as a place for tranquility and contemplating.

In Rome courtyards often contained a pool for rainwater collection, they were also used as gardens. In public buildings like churches and city halls, courtyards are used as a public gathering space.

Traditional Bahraini houses had courtyards as well. Unfortunately, today houses in Bahrain are being built in a completely opposite way of how traditional houses were built. Instead of the building surrounding an outdoor space to create private and safe area, the outdoor space surrounds the building to make the building more private and safe. This is the result of the completely different modern lifestyle where its impossible to live without an air conditioner, TV, computer and other devices.

This trend seems to have somehow separated neighbors from each other by creating more distance between houses. In a traditional neighborhood or "fereej", houses would share the same walls, they would be open for the neighbors as most of them would be family members or very close friends, they could be shortcuts if the house lies in your way and has a door on each side. This intimate closeness between buildings was necessary because back then neighbors depended on each other for survival. The rich needed the poor help and vice versa. However. this dependency is no longer an issue today as almost all families are independent. As a result, this independence reflected on the neighborhood forms and the modern "fereej".

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