One of Jorn Utzon’s famous courtyard housing developments – the scheme at Kingo, near Helsingor, Denmark, of 1954 is an example of housing oriented to the sun and it is a model of what housing should be in a solar passive world.
All of the houses are oriented towards the sun for passive solar gain. Some, admittedly, will suffer sunshading by other houses as this layout was built upon nominally flat land. Utzon’s take on solar housing – his use of courtyards – gives each homeowner a private area within a more open communally maintained area. This gives over much more land to nature than the schemes of housebuilders would. The scheme’s sustainability is underpinned by its popularity – it’s houses will always be well maintained because the living environment at Kingo is valued, not only for its free energy from the sun, but for the space it gives for nature to thrive.
In the housebuilder’s layout below the houses are oriented haphazardly in a self-conscious effort to ape the planning of a medieval town or village with forced ‘higgldy-piggldy’ planning. Many of the houses have north-facing gardens and yet the cars have all of the sunshine. And there is just one pathway that is not just an adjunct to vehicular traffic. Finally, there is precious little room for nature with most the space available is carved up into either tiny gardens or car parking. This is a layout in the service of carbon, not in the service of humans, or nature.
This as opposed to the poor state of housing in the UK where developers even put fake chimney stacks on their cheerless barrack-like houses in order to try to make them look ‘historic’. Moreover modern housing layouts pay little heed to the solar direction, condemning many to have dark cold Lounges, while the utility rooms and toilets of others are bathed in sunshine all day long.
Utzon’s courtyard houses: designs for a sustainable future world and a testament to this architect’s humanity and humility.