This beautiful modern house in Springfield, Missouri features a large courtyard with a pool designed to open towards a nearby creek. Next, we'll take a look beyond the brick and wood-slat fence.
Of course the edge of the house facing the courtyard is not exactly like the letter U; it has ins and outs that provide more corners for the rooms and create smaller zones within the outdoor space. Note the seating pit beyond the pool, also visible in the next photo.
This conversation pit with fire is made more intimate through the shaping of the house's plan. It is visible from the pool cabana on one side, yet it is screened and shaded on the left by a wood-slat fence and roof that unites the living spaces with this cabana.
The three parts of the plan that define the compact courtyard of this house in Texas are clearly visible in this view of the perimeter. Not only do we see the volumes projecting from the central space, the roof lines slope towards the courtyard, accentuating its importance.
The courtyard, more water and walkway than grass, is defined by the roof overhand and perimeter circulation. The space has a readily apparent intimacy. Seen in another view ...
... we can see how the view across the courtyard is important and considered by the architects, especially in the rhythm of the doors and columns. Note the clerestory windows that bring soft light into the house.
This house's U-shape (actually, looking at the front of the house, it's an H-shape) creates a small raised patio. Next, let's take a look at the patio from inside.
This view makes it clear that the treatment of the side walls — whitewashed, basically — has a dramatic impact on the outdoor space. The reflected light brightens the space. While it may call for some green for shade, the expansive glass in the foreground points to a desire for plenty of sunlight in this part of the house.
A raised patio can be seen in another house, but the effect is much different. This stems from putting the seating area under an overhang and the way the plan wraps around a large tree.
A master suite addition to an Eichler turns the house into a U-shaped plan, if a squat one relative to the previous examples. Next, let's take a look inside the new master suite.
This is a scale that is feasible for many suburban lots. The openness of the walls towards the small patio illustrates an advantage of U-shaped plans, where privacy concerns are diminished.
These last few examples go to the other extreme and show multi-building plans that nevertheless follow U-shapes to create outdoor spaces. Visible at left in this project is a bedroom space attached to the garage. Opposite is the main building that is articulated like smaller buildings through shaping of the plan and the various gables. This entry court is a pleasing space that uses a trellis to connect the two buildings.
An existing L-shaped bungalow was added to, bringing the house closer to the garage (at right) and creating a space for a small seating area between the two.