Atrium house

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Schematic representation of an ancient Roman atrium house

An atrium house is a house that has a central room open to the sky in its middle, an inner courtyard (atrium). The light is led to the rooms through an opening in the roof. This means that the house can also have no windows to the outside. The courtyard can either be open to the sky or covered.

The term atrium house is applied on the one hand to ancient Roman houses with an atrium in the original sense, on the other hand to modern residential buildings with any variant of the inner courtyard or with a reminiscent of room design.

Development of the house type

The building type of the house with an inner courtyard has a long tradition and can be found in many cultures around the world. Originally, living spaces were not arranged in a rectangular shape, but in a circle around an empty central room. The empty space served as a traffic area for people and animals as well as a cooking area.


Rectangular houses with courtyards were built in ancient Egypt . In antiquity , the inner courtyard was aesthetically upgraded with colonnades ( porticos ) and later also arcades . Through the colonnade , the individual rooms could be reached with dry feet even in bad weather.

The typical atrium house first appeared in the Italian culture with the Etruscans . The Romans took over the atrium from the Etruscans into Roman architecture , especially in the block-like buildings of the cities, where atrium houses like in Pompeii can often be found and represent the usual house type. As a time-honored spatial element, which was connected with the cult of Lara cultivated there , the atrium was later integrated into the Villa urbana - the luxurious residential building in the country. From the 2nd century BC When space was available, the Roman atrium house was often extended by a peristyle , an inner courtyard surrounded by colonnades , which is usually designed as an ornamental garden.

Modern times

Modern atrium houses in Sweden: The garden courtyard is bordered on two sides by the own residential building, on the other sides by an opaque picket fence or, in the rear houses, by the outer wall of the neighboring house

In Spain , the model of the atrium in the patio was taken up and further developed. Simple houses with patios were also built in the colonies of Central and South America.

At the beginning of the 20th century, architects in Central Europe took up the Roman atrium again and since then has further developed it in various variants. In the 1960s, the so-called garden courtyard houses were built in Western Europe and North America , in which the actual house is often single-storey and angular. It encloses two sides of the garden courtyard, the other two sides are closed by storey-high walls or the neighboring courtyard houses. This enables more dense development than with free-standing single - family houses with surrounding gardens. Atrium houses of this type are often built as whole settlements, so-called carpet settlements (viewed from above, these settlements form patterns that are reminiscent of carpet patterns ). In modern architecture, residential buildings with some sort of courtyard are often referred to as atrium houses .

A modern atrium can be a lawn or a solid floor area under the open sky, it can be a glazed area or an interior space with a high proportion of windows. Modern inner courtyards can also be found in commercial, industrial and public buildings (e.g. in cultural centers).

A riad in Morocco

Cultures outside Europe

Atrium house in Cuba

Houses with inner courtyards have also emerged in Arab architecture. This architectural style has developed further with the spread of Islam in North Africa (see Moroccan Riyadh ) and influenced the development of the patios on the Iberian Peninsula . In the tropical countries of Central America, too, there are buildings in which the coolness of the shade in the atrium is used.

Similar buildings can also be found in Near Eastern architecture, in the Chinese imperial houses and in Japanese monasteries.


Web links

Wiktionary: Atriumhaus  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ AJ Brothers: Urban Housing , In: Ian M. Barton (Ed.): Roman Domestic Buildings , 37.