This commission was no ordinary.

A little courtyard in a narrow plot is squeezed between buildings and peculiar sheds. The narrow plot itself has one end in a beautiful historical square and the second pointing towards a small river.

It immediately caught our attention. Lots of questions. It’s so tiny! It’s not even entirely theirs! Is it even cost effective? The task became almost tantalizing.

There is a shop, storage, artist‘s atelier, and a house of the owners. The yard is a connection of several spaces – the house passage, living rooms on the ground floor, a narrow strip of garden and the adjacent yard. In various ways everybody shares the space together.

We wanted a simple yet strong and resilient concept. It was not about owning the space, but borrowing it for a time. We had to understand the delicate webbing of relations before adding a new layer. Close contact with surfaces and materials called for excellent and well aging details. We also needed to take great care not only what to design, but what we don’t design.

Although the yard has several entrances and is located in the middle of happenings, it is a quiet place. As a center of the shell – although cramped, it has a safe and relaxing vibe. An opening to the sky that urges one to stop and breathe in the atmosphere of peace.

Here you can rest on a comfortable sofa, have a coffee, read or just sit with an eye pleased to a colorful flower composition and an ear calmed by the bubbling sounds of a small fountain. The floor of this outdoor room is a grid of several formats of stone tiles, granite cubes and slabs with natural ocher grain. The cold surface of the stone carpet is optically softened by leaves and petals that fall from the low pillows of perennials. The surrounding facades are high and no extra shading is needed, but the courtyard is delicately crowned by an existing magnolia tree.

Surprisingly, the main element of the small atrium is not the garden furniture or greenery, but the metal gate. The whole wall of the courtyard is formed as a rusty sheet metal screen with an entrance (need to drive in!), into which a perforation in the shape of a flowering branch of the magnolia was graphically imprinted. It’s like a photographic plate getting patina, capturing a moment which does not exist anymore. It creates a backdrop for the yard and functions as a semi permeable shielding from the buzz of the storage and shops. It allows people to pass through – children running to school, workers  catching a smoke break, or regular visitors dropping by to say hello.

Newcomers can see the atrium through the holes in the gate and can decide whether and how they enter the space – with a quiet shh or bottle of prosecco ready to bang!

The rusty element of the steel wall, sculpturally refined by a natural motif, is complemented by a water element, a corten bowl in a shady flower bed under the old tree, and a few boxes of flower-pots of the same material in the back of the seating.

The metal elements, even with all the rust, are immersed in the leaves of pachysandra, Hakone grass and the Lady’s mantle, the gate is slowly climbed by the Virginia creeper. Hydrangea and Peony flowers shine in the flowerbeds during the year. Tiny flowers of garlic, honeysuckle, pupae, anemone and flatworm guarantee that there is something to enjoy all year round. Even during the winter, the color of the metal glows here and colors the atrium with an unexpected vibrant red.

No garden is odd or too small if it is able to respectfully accomodate functions and provide a good mood. It may be small, but we can not underestimate its social importance and spatial interconnections. The owners understood the impact this little courtyard had and needed to be and they had great willingness and trust in the simplistic yet creative approach that would allow the space to keep the vibrant and community feel. It was great to cooperate with such minded people as them.

Although it is a small project in a tiny garden, we are always looking forward to visiting it again. Because just as there are no small tasks, there is no small joy!


Project location: Litomyšl, Czech Republic

Design year: 2017

Year Built: 2018


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