Difference between eastern and western courtyard house

A courtyard house basically refers to a large house made up of private open spaces that have a number of major parts of buildings based at the center of a courtyard (Carvalho, 2015). Courtyard houses were common in residential architecture all over the world and across the different centuries.

Chinese courtyard houses

The traditional courtyard buildings in China are referred to as Siheyuan which meant a courtyard at the center of four rooms. The siheyuan or the constitution of a courtyard lay the basis of a pattern or an outline for domestic architecture in Beijing. This spreads to temples, palaces, monasteries as well as additional buildings (Roth & Clark, 2013). A Siheyuan with adequate space was normally occupied by one large family. The size of a single courtyard was an illustration of the owners social achievement. In fact, tax collection was based on this principle and which was coordinated and controlled by a citys planning authority.

The physical layout of a siheyuan The ordinary layout of a siheyuan was four major buildings located along the east-west axis and north-south axis. The major room in that building was heading south and was located facing north. In addition, the north, western and eastern houses are linked by pathways. In the course of the Day, a courtyard was used to protect people from the scorching sunlight (Piker, 2010). At night it was also used to cool a house and this offered the appropriate ambiance that made people like the courtyard. There was an opposite house which was the building heading north. At the back of the building heading north was another backside house and it is here that permission was granted for constructing a two-storey building. An entrance gate was usually located in the eastern-southern side or commonly referred to as the wind corner as per the Chinese beliefs.

Domus of Roman

A Domus was basically owned by a rich middle class from ancient Rome. In most cases, Domus were built in the urban centers. Quite distinct from this one was an elite class Domus which had highly complex decorations, marble inlay works and had paintings on the walls. There are times when the whole wall was painted. Apart from having a Domus inside the town, a number of elites also owned Villas outside the city.

The physical layout

The layout of a Domus was made up of several rooms, gardens as well as indoor courtyards. There was an atrium which was said to be the core of a Domus. It had a vestibulum or at times known as an entrance pathway which headed to an atrium and had other rooms heading out of an atrium (Quagliarini et al, 2010). At the front of most of the city, houses were shops heading to a nearby street. A number of the buildings particularly those owned by the rich class were made of two distinct buildings linked by a walkway.

Close to the atrium was a familys major rooms, a study, relatively smaller rooms as well as a triclinium or a dining room. There was an impluvium that was located at the center of the atrium where on the floor it was constructed a rectangular pool whose purpose was to get all the rainwater and then drain it away. Marble was used in the lining of this pool (Quagliarini et al, 2010). There were fauces or walkways all over the size of the rooms in between the rooms and the atrium.

A kitchen is also referred to as a culina which was poorly lit and it was a small area used as a working station for the servants. An example of Domus is the House of the Faun (Carvalho, 2015).


  • Dias De Carvalho, R. A. (2015). Courtyard housing as a subtropical urban design model (Doctoral dissertation, Queensland University of Technology).
  • Piker, M. W. (2010). (re)-Constructivism in Contemporary China (Doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati).
  • Roth, L. M., & Clark, A. R. (2013). Understanding architecture: Its elements, history, and meaning. Westview Press.
  • Quagliarini, E., Lenci, S., & Iorio, M. (2010). Mechanical properties of adobe walls in a Roman Republican domus at Suasa. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 11(2), 130-137.