This post marks the official beginning of a new series of studies of classic Chicago Building Types. Each city has its history of materials, wealth, population shifts and popularity, as well as its hopes and fears, written in its buildings. We’ll be making a study of several of Chicago’s common building forms and how they came to fill the city around us.
THE COURTYARD APARTMENT: Chicago’s Low Rise Density Workhorse
This quiet building form so common in Lakeview and other north side neighborhoods makes a private, livable and densely packed home for many Chicago residents, including myself. The pair of images above (of my own building, in fact) illustrate the most important feature of the Courtyard building: the double access points from the court and from the back staircases. This simple design move makes for exceptionally pleasant, livable spaces.
As Architectural Record put it in 1907, comparing Chicago’s apartments with New York’s:
“On the whole, one gets the impression that the Western apartment houses are built in order to supply pleasant residences for people of some taste, whereas the New York apartment house is the victim from start to finish of conditions which force their tenants merely to take what they can get.”
The courtyard form ensures that, regardless of who owned or built on the adjacent properties, this assembly of units will always have a little patch of green space in their tiny interior court. What’s more they all have access (both to airflow and view and for physical exits) to both the interior court side of the building and the exterior with its tiny porch/fire stair exits.
WHAT MAKES A COURTYARD BUILDING GREAT?
If you’re not an apartment dweller you may never have given much thought to what sets these courtyard buildings apart from other types of apartment dwellings. The answer is in the organization.
Multiple Core vs Double Loaded Corridor
Unlike more modern apartment block in which each unit on a floor is connected to a long hallway that has two (or three) vertical access points by elevator or fire-stair, these courtyard apartments aren’t connected horizontally to the other units on their floor but only vertically by a front entry stair and a back porch stair to the five other units on their stack.
Tags: A Chicago Sojourn
, Air Flow
, Building Type
, Courtyard Apartment
, Cross Vent
, Curious City
, Garden Apartment
, green space
, Walk Up