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A courtyard or court is an enclosed area, often surrounded by a building or complex, that is open to the sky. Such spaces in inns and public buildings were often the primary meeting places for some purposes, leading to the other meanings of . Both of the words court and yard derive from the same root, meaning an enclosed space. See yard and garden for the relation of this set of words.
Courtyards—private open spaces surrounded by walls or buildings—have been in use in residential architecture for almost as long as people have lived in constructed dwellings. The courtyard house makes its first appearance ca. 6400–6000 BC (calibrated), in the Neolithic Yarmukian site at Sha'ar HaGolan, in the central Jordan Valley, on the northern bank of the Yarmouk River, giving the site a special significance in architectural history. Courtyards have historically been used for many purposes including cooking, sleeping, working, playing, gardening, and even places to keep animals.
Before courtyards, open fires were kept burning in a central place within a home, with only a small hole in the ceiling overhead to allow smoke to escape. Over time, these small openings were enlarged and eventually led to the development of the centralized open courtyard we know today. Courtyard homes have been designed and built throughout the world with many variations.
Courtyard homes are more prevalent in temperate climates, as an open central court can be an important aid to cooling house in warm weather. However, courtyard houses have been found in harsher climates as well for centuries. The comforts offered by a courtyard—air, light, privacy, security, and tranquility—are properties nearly universally desired in human housing.
Daisen-in, a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji, one of the five most important Zen temples of Kyoto
Rome, Italy, a courtyard
Interior of the ING Building, Edmonton, Canada
Central patio in Buenos Aires, Antonio Ballvé Penintetiary Museum
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