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03.12.2020 - Ausgabe: 6/2020

Block inner courtyards are turned into gems in an urban setting

By Thomas Reinicke (SpielRaumConcept)

© Thomas Reinicke (SpielRaumConcept)

Their design potential and effect is all the greater the more they are sealed off from the urban environment. With three or more storeys and a complete perimeter around the buildings, an inner courtyard area can become a haven of peace and tranquillity from a noisy, busy and hectic environment. In view of the increasing urban densification, inner courtyards are of particular importance provided that their design and function are of an appropriate quality.

The advantages and potentials are obvious: above all tranquillity, i.e. the absence of street, traffic and construction noise, intimacy within the framework of house rules, which means the exclusion of the public, thus also the avoidance of vandalism, littering and third-party use. Not to mention self-determined neighbourly activities – these are the qualities of these courtyards. 

Another very important aspect is that children can safely play in the immediate vicinity of their homes.


Städtische Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Bremerhaven mbH (Bremerhaven Municipal Housing Association)

 A successful concept presents itself in Bremerhaven even ten years after its completion.

From 2008 to 2010, the buildings on Scharnhorststraße were extensively renovated and modernised by Städtische Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Bremerhaven mbH (STÄWOG). In the course of this, 23 modular balcony units were added over four floors and waste disposal was completely relocated from the inner courtyard to the street.

As part of this project, the 2,400 square metre inner courtyard was completely redesigned. 

Plenty of greenery, a play area for the little ones, lighting, weather-protected bicycle parking and a design that will leave you with a unique sense of peace and tranquillity are the basic functions and characteristics of this inner courtyard. 

Upon entering the inner courtyard, you leave the urban environment and immerse yourself in a relatively small space of a manageable size that creates a sense of intimacy and security.

This particularly meets people’s need to let their children play safely in a sheltered place in the immediate vicinity of their homes, away from motorised traffic and its noise, without exhaust fumes and dog excrement. 

A simple and sleek design with clean lines and clear structures, combined with striking playground equipment made of naturally grown woods, embedded in inlaid surfaces, provide orientation. Grey sandstone blocks lie scattered in the edging lines, breaking through them and also helping children to explore and enjoy a variety of experiences. With their broken and irregular edges, they also provide a stark contrast to the smooth lines and shapes of the inner courtyard and the edges of the buildings.

Set amidst these clearly arranged surfaces and elements, nine spring-blossoming Japanese cherry trees and a red maple tree make the change of seasons an experience. With their magnificent blossoms in all their splendour in early spring, they set a colourful highlight. 

In the gravel areas, rectangular flower beds have been created between the add-on balcony units. In the sunny sections, ground cover roses and cranesbills are blooming. 

Butterflies as heralds of summer are fluttering around solitary summer lilac shrubs. In the (semi) shade, ground cover ivy and ferns grow. 

To ensure that the inner courtyard is not plunged into darkness at night, light becomes the main design element from dusk until midnight. Bollard lights and floor spotlights provide orientation and safety and create a special atmosphere, making you want to look “inside” even in the dark. The inner courtyard has become the pleasant, almost meditative interior of the outer so-called living environment. 

According to a survey conducted by the client, Städtische Wohnungsgesellschaft Bremerhaven mbH, about 95 per cent of the residents are satisfied with the new inner courtyard. This high level of acceptance is all the more significant considering that the tenants concerned have endured a sometimes nerve-racking two-year renovation of the housing stock.



Further information:



Graduate landscape architect Thomas Reinicke (www.SpielRaumConcept.de)


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