How do you turn a long, narrow space that is only 9.2 feet wide into a courtyard landscape that is aesthetically pleasing, functional and can be ideal for communal use?

With six fenced private patios, overgrown shrubs and bulky stormwater barrels, the dysfunctional existing garden area of Koo’s Courtyard, Vancouver’s Strathcona neighborhood, left little room for anything else. Landscape architecture firm Hapa worked with Pure Landscapes to clear the clutter and reveal the potential for communal use.

Koo's Courtyard

Photos: Hapa Collaborative/Martin Knowles Photography

Using a courtyard design, the architects transformed several small, underused patios into one layered, shared amenity space. A long hemlock bench skirts along the east edge of the courtyard for informal seating and ties together related zones of use, including a back terrace, a wood deck, a kitchen area, banquet seating and a firepit. A pergola unifies the latter three spaces, modulating the overhead plane and further breaking up the length of the site. Two sets of steps also resolve grade change and foreshorten the long view. In a small, wider section of the area, separate private patio space is subtly defined by a band of planting and stepped stones.

Koo's Courtyard

Photos: Hapa Collaborative/Martin Knowles Photography

Courtyard considerations

To meet environmental considerations, five custom barrels fit within a tiny footprint along the townhouse walls, providing stormwater through gravity-fed hose bibbs and emphasizing the site’s industrial aesthetic. An infiltration zone at the courtyard’s margins absorbs excess stormwater. Other green components include locally sourced hemlock benches and cedar decking, the incorporation of existing trees and vines into the courtyard and two plum trees that, once established, will yield edible fruit.

Koo's Courtyard

Photos: Hapa Collaborative/Martin Knowles Photography

Where there were once isolated, crowded yards, there is now a coherent, communal space that the owners can use to socialize and enjoy the environment.

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