*1Kyari Bulama, 2Audu A. Usman,3Mala Ali Modu,and 4Abdullahi Muhammad

1&2Department of Architectural Technology,3Dept. of Estate Management & Valuation, 4Dept. of Quantity Surveying, 1,2,3,&4Ramat Polytechnic Maiduguri, BornoState, Nigeria

Corresponding author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The planning and construction ofhomes, takes a pattern, which varies from society to society thatoffers direct insight into the study of various cultural elements of the people. Scholars have advocated for socio-culture inclusion in Nigerian housing schemes as a result of dissatisfaction due to cultural exclusion in the housing design. Courtyards have been incorporated into modern building designs as a reflection of the people’s culture. The literature have shown how court yards were studied together with other attributes. However the efficacy of the courtyard interms of culture of the people of Maiduguri has not been single out for deeper understanding. There is need to evaluate the internal courtyard arrangements with the purpose of justifying their cultural relevance. Therefore the aim of this study was to investigate the cultural efficacy of internal courtyards of some selected modern residential houses in Maiduguri. The research design chosen for the study was case study

research.The qualitative tools used were visual assessment, observation and interview. Kanuri households as a dominant ethnic group in the study area were selected for the study in addition to being an architecturally modern residential house; a polygamous family structure and the presence of internal courtyard. The two cases selected that meet the phenomenon under investigation were: a residential house at 777 Housing estate and a Residential house at old GRA in Maiduguri.Cultural aspects investigated for each household include privacy through Segregation; Social cohesion; economic activities; domestic activities and accessibility. The study shows the effort of its designers to segregate female from male visitors. However, aspects of social cohesion, economic activities and domestic chores cannot be contained in the courtyard provided going by their sizes and configuration. So this paper recommendeda holistic approach for integrating courtyard in Modern Residential housing design.

Keywords:Cultural efficacy, Internal courtyard, Modern residential house.



Cultural principles kept on manifesting in self-built and transformed urban public housing in Nigeria (Isah, A. D., Khan, T.H., Ahmad, A. S. and Abubakar, A. I.,2016).  Furthermore, in spite of the scarcity and non-affordability of housing due to urban population rise, cultural factors tend to influence the physical features of housing space use (Awotona, 1990, Isah, A. D., et. al. 2016). The idea of housing came as an objective of fulfilling one of the basic needs of man principally in the provision of shelter, security and comfort. In the practical establishment of homes, the planning and construction takes a pattern or form, which varies from society to society and from country to country. Consequently, the form of housing chosen or built offers a direct insight into the study of various cultures and societies of the people (Rikko, L. S. and Gwatau, D. 2011).Isah, et. al. (2016)reported the studies of Awotona, 1990; Ibem, et al., 2011; Jiboye, 2009; and Ilesanmi, 2010 emphasizing housing dissatisfaction due to cultural exclusion particularly among tenants and public housing owners.


Architecture is a manifestation and expression of culture. As such it must acknowledge and respond to the cultural needs and values of the society with which it interacts (Kenney, S. F. 1994).  Scholars in the last two decades have advocated for socio-culture inclusion in Nigerian housing schemes despite the dynamic process of housing and steadiness in the production process (Daramola, 2006). This is evident from the morphology of the initial house form transformed by including basic household socio-cultural activities. (Isah, et. al. 2016).


Reviewing the way a culture's basic needs are fulfilled, the family hierarchy structure, attitudes about the role of women and privacy, and the way a society interacts socially can all aid in deciphering architectural forms. Present designs can also benefit from this approach by creating more informed and appropriate design responses to various problems. (Kenney, S. F. 1994)

Architecture as a cultural phenomenon changes as culture does, and so there has been

transformation from traditional architecture to contemporary architecture the world over. Housing as a material culture therefore has taken many forms in the world. These forms have engendered physical, social and psychological characteristics. (Okeyinka, Y. R and Odetoye, S.A. 2015)

The courtyard in the residential houses performs such functions as socializing, ceremonial and recreation; productive economic activities are carried on within it; it insulates the living areas from environment hazards such as smoke, noise and blight. It equally protects the traditional culture and genealogy which assists in curtailing some of the social ills that characterize the new residential layouts in the urban and rural centres. These characteristics are lessons that need to be learnt and incorporated into modern plans and building designs. (Adedokun, A. 2014)


Statement of Problem

The successful attributes of a courtyard in housing designs is not limited to providing comfortable indoor environments and energy efficiency. It should be extended to the residents’ acceptance to understand the mutual interaction between the building and their socio-cultural needs. (Jamaludin, A. A., Hussein, H. and Tahir, K. M. 2016).The spatial design of private courtyard is in close relation with people’s psychological feeling. There are mainly two kinds of people’s activities in the private courtyard space: psychological and behavioral activity. Psychological activity refers to people’s cognition and understanding about environment, and behavior activity refers to people’s motion and behavior in the courtyard. The interaction of psychology and behavior will affect the way people use the space, and further influence the efficacyof the space (Zhao, C.C., 1990 in Cui, H., Hu, Q., and He, F. 2015).

According to Ilesanmiin (Jamaludin, 2016), the residents’ perception of a proper residential environment cannot be ignored at the policy, planning, design and implementation stages where satisfaction with the physical attributes of the residence is the most powerful indicator of housing satisfaction. Thus, the notable design features can be replicated and any redundant or unnecessary building features will be eliminated.


Residential satisfaction refers to the degree of contentment experienced by a household with reference to the current housing situation, and it is a non-economic and normative quality evaluation approach to assess the quality of housing units. Households judge their housing conditions based on the actual housing situation and housing norms, and they are likely to express a high level of satisfaction with housing if the households’ current housing situation meets the norms. On the other hand, incongruence between housing situation and norms may result in a housing deficit, which in turn gives rise to housing dissatisfaction (Morris and Winter, 1975, Isah, et,al. 2016). Therefore the objective of preserving the cultural heritage through housing form, need to be upheld to promote communal living in the urban centres so that the residents should not feel alienated from the urban environment. It is only when this is achieved that it can be truly said that there is an indigenous architecture which is in harmony with the societal evolution. (Rikko, L. S. and Gwatau, D. 2011)


Research Questions

RQ 1:  Does thecourtyards reflect the need and socio-cultural values of theinhabitants of the modern Houses?

RQ 2:  To what extent are the users’ socio-cultural values affected by the courtyard design?

RQ 3: What are the major factors motivating the spatial design of courtyard in modern residential houses in the study area?



Aim and Objectives

The aim of this study is to investigate the cultural efficacy of internal courtyards of some selected modern residential houses in Maiduguri. The specific objectives which seeks to answer the research questions are:

i To determine the extent to which the socio-cultural values of the usersaffects internal courtyard design in Modern residential houses of the study area.

ii To determine the extent to which courtyards reflects the socio-cultural values of the inhabitants of the modern Houses.

iii To identify the major factors motivating the spatial design of courtyard in modern residential houses in the study area.



Nigerian Modern Architecture

Okwumabua(2006) defined Nigerian Modern Style: as a Modem African architecture that is particular to Nigeria, which uses modern materials and technology inclusive of design elements and space organization produced from traditional Nigerian architecture……The courtyard style house is designed as a collection of buildings arranged in a way to enclose an open space in the middle. This space is open to the elements and may be designed with certain features to collect rainwater for consumption (then called Impluvium Courtyard).(Okwumabua, 2006)

Homeowners proud of their heritage and culture normally commission the Modern Nigerian Style for their personal homes. These homeowners are eager to portray and advertise their success by commissioning a home incorporating the traditional designs of a culture of which they are proud. They are educated and are influenced by popular western aesthetic values, but also hold their own culture, traditions and aesthetic values in very high regard. (Okwumabua, 2006)

The impact of culture, aesthetics and climate is also translated architecturally in Modern Nigerian Style. Influenced by both nuclear and extended family relationships, homes in this style are built mostly in the hometowns and ancestral villages. They are designed by people who are exposed to modernity but maintain value in their culture and heritage. This is reflected more in the aesthetics and sculptural form of the buildings than in the floor plan of the house. Floor plans are modem and include indoor plumbing, interior kitchens and toilet facilities. Kitchens, however, are small and not very functional. The reason for this is that husbands rarely consult their wives during the design and construction of the family home. As a result, spaces normally associated with women's work, are typically inefficient and inadequate (Okwumabua, 2006).

Where and when included, double courtyards (formal and informal) serve as space for family gatherings and hosting of local meetings, and include double kitchens: one used for the preparation of Western foods and the other for traditional food preparation.


Socio-cultural Influences on Modern Residential Designs in Northeast and Northwest Nigeria.

Rikko, and Gwatau, (2011) in their paper The Nigerian architecture: The trend in housing developmentstated that Islam had no doubt some influence on the layoutof compounds particularly in the urban areas of Hausa land but argued that the courtyard house thus, identified with this architecture regarded today as almost synonymous with the “Muslim house” was in existence long before Islam made its appearance on the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th Century AD. Other non-religious factors such as building materials, techniques and skills available to communities, their need for security, and scarcity of land especially in urban centers have contributed to the final shape of these courtyard houses.Their paper concluded by suggesting that the courtyard house type which has been the indigenous architecture should be reinvented by the professionals with the open space architecture as the likely Nigerian Architecture. (Rikko, and Gwatau, 2011)

Aliyu, (2015) in a study titled Built Environment in Transition: The Significances of Postmodern Residential Designs in Cultural Sustainability stated that traditional aspect that suits Islamic culture


and is frequently reflected in most postmodern residential designs in the North (Northeast and Northwest) is the courtyard designs. Courtyard plans are the most common space organization used in the region to achieve the degree of privacy needed. The arrangement has been in existence prior to the advent of Islam in the country. It was discovered that the design suits the so-called extended family and also provides satisfactory response to the needed privacy, as well solves the problem of the regional hot weather. The position of the courtyards in the designs usually responds to the religious and cultural attitudes of the regions. The courtyards in the designs separate the male visitors and family areas, and pleasantly provide space for domestic activities, and encourage effective cross-ventilation. In certain circumstances, accessibility to the courtyard spaces in the postmodern residential designs of the Northeast and Northwest regions is usually through the women’s zone. The concept provides a link to the women’s areas such as the kitchens, and also creates easy access to the family staircase. This ideology is due to Islamic culture with regard to the privacy attitudes. Moreover, the prevailing approach of postmodern architectural practice has paved a way for designers to continue to produce building plans with focus on cultural sustainability and eventually act in a complementary manner to the so-called cultural and religious need for privacy. (Aliyu, 2015)

Maina, (2012) in her study Using space syntax methods to explore abandoned prototype housing units in Tangale land, North-Eastern Nigeria identified the courtyard as the basic functional spaces (Maina, J. 2012). During her measured survey of the compounds, the open courtyard was observed to be a multi-functional space where a lot of household activities occurred. This was validated by spatial analyses of the courtyard being the most integrated space for 80% of the sample houses. The absence of such a vital functional space in the prototype units would thus impair the diurnal functioning of most Tangale households (about 45% of all activities were observed within courtyards). (Maina, J. 2012)


Indigenous Housing Design in Maiduguri

Jalam, Abubakar and Muhammad, (2011) in their study of Culture Consideration in the Design of Government Housing Estates in Maiduguri, Borno State – Nigeriaidentifiedindigenous Housing Design in Maiduguri where the Houses usually express physically, the social structure of the clan or kinship group living in them, that is, the indigenous housing pattern shows the living style of the people. However, the arrangement of different spaces inside a house and their varying degree of privacy demonstrate the lifestyle pattern of each culture. But generally, the physical layout separates homesteads into wives quarters; children; boys, usually near the entrance; and that of the head, which commands a view from the entrance thus reflecting the Islamic norms of social grouping in a polygamous family. The traditional dwelling that followed through centuries is a single room design, built of simple materials and circular, square or rectangular shapes. Family activities happen on different spaces such as a place for food storage and somewhere to protect animals at night, a place to eat and a place to sit and talk in the day time, an open central courtyard for domestic activities like laundry, for (night) storytelling and, a place to sleep. (Jalam, U. A.; Abubakar, M. Y.; and Muhammad, S.2011)


Attributes of Courtyard House

Rapoport, (2007)in answering the question,WHAT IS A “COURTYARD HOUSE”?Gave some attributes of courtyard house.

1Distinct privacy mechanism. This mechanism mainly emphasizes privacy vis-à-vis the outside using physical elements (such as walls and doors) and other mechanisms may be used, such as separation in time, rules, penetration gradients, etc. Thus, the form of the relation between the private and public domains is more fundamental than the shape of the domains (let alone the materials used). (Rapoport, A. 2007)

2A second attribute is that the courtyard itself provides a critically important setting or subsystem of settings, within which specific activities occur as part of a larger system of activities, within a larger system of settings (which is the dwelling).(Rapoport, A. 2007)


3A third attribute of courtyard housing is that the courtyard, as a central space, provides access to other spaces.(Rapoport, A. 2007)

4 The fourth attribute, which reveals what has also often been regarded as a major advantage of courtyard houses — their ability to allow a “more efficient” use of space, thus reducing the area of settlements.(Rapoport, A. 2007)

5 The fifth attribute of certain courtyard houses (partly attributable to their ability to form a dense settlement fabric) that has received much emphasis is their climatic efficiency. In hot, arid climates such houses and the resulting settlement issue supposedly provide a greater measure of comfort. (Rapoport, A. 2007)


Summary of Literature Review

The literature review showed how different researchers identified the cultural significance of the court yard both in modern and traditional Nigerian architecture. Furthermore the literature showed how the court yards were studied together with other attributes. The efficacy of the courtyard in terms culture has not been single out for deeper understanding.Most of the reported studies were experimental studies that focus on the advantages and disadvantages of the internal courtyard in terms of natural ventilation and daylighting, either through field measurement or simulation (Jamaludin, A. A., Hussein, H. and Tahir, K. M. (2016).There is need to evaluate the residents’ acceptance level of their internal courtyard arrangements with the purpose of justifying the cultural relevance of the internal courtyard in the building design.



The research design chosen for this study is case study research. Case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context using multiple sources of evidence. It is a method for learning about a complex instance based on a comprehensive understanding of that instance obtained by extensive description and analysis of that instance taken as a whole and in its context. In architecture education an information rich typical case can be used to illustrate an architectural style or issue.  Such cases are descriptive in character and primarily show what a situation is likeOluigbo (2017).



Factors of social values, family lifestyle, social activities, and family structure were considered and related with spatial layout of the courtyards of their dwellings. The qualitative tools used in this research were visual assessment, observation and interview. Visual assessment which by its description and definition requires an evaluation of space, size, composition, technique and medium (Okwumabua, 2006). Thus, the buildings were visually examined using these criteria for evidence of the application of cultural ideology in the designs of the courtyards. Observation was adopted in deriving the perception of socio-cultural activities and space use pattern. Thus, exploring the data from field observation via qualitative method.

The interview involved semi-structured interview with head of the household and his wives.Which means that the questions and themes have been developed in advance but that it did not totally govern the interview situation. The strength of a qualitative interview is it can capture a variety of opinions and it gives a multifaceted and more comprehensive picture of the phenomena studied (Kvale, 2005 as reported by Karlsson, F. (2006).  The interviews, were based on a guide which include questions about, their perception of the building and the immediate surroundings, which facilitated for the respondent to discuss about what they thought were important within the themes.

In considering the cultural performance of the courtyard, two aspects of the housing environment will be considered. The first is the internal spatial concept and geometry. The second aspect is activities done in the courtyard.




Case Study Selection

Oluigbo (2010) stated that for a case to be selected it must have certain characteristics that are representative of the phenomenon under consideration. In the course of this research Kanuri households as a dominant ethnic groups in the study area were selected for the study in addition to the following criteria:

  1. An architecturally modern residential house.
  2. A polygamous family structure and how it relates to the design of the house
  3. The presence of internal courtyard, itfunctionality and architectural characteristics.

The cases selected that meet with phenomenon under investigation are:      


Case Study one:A Residential house at 777 Housing estate in Maiduguri

The house is an owner occupied which was rebuilt after it was completely destroyed as a result of fire outbreak. It is standing on a plot bounded by a block wall fence giving a setback of about 2.2m to the main building on all sides. The household consist of the husband, two wives and their children. In addition to the presence of an internal courtyard the house has the following facilities:

  1. Each wife has a bedroom, toilet, living room, W.C. for visitors and separate kitchen
  2. The husband has a bedroom, living room, toilet and dinning with visitors toilet.
  3. The grown up children have a bedroom and toilet.



Figure 1.0 Floor plan of Case study one

Source: Author






Case Study two: A Residential house at old GRA in Maiduguri

The house is an owner built and occupied. It is standing on a plot bounded by a block wall fence giving a setback of about 1.8m in to the main building on the two sides and 8.0m and 3.0m from the front and the rear respectively.

The household consist of the husband, three wives and their children. In addition to the presence of an internal courtyard the house has the following facilities:

  1. Each wife has a bedroom, toilet, and living room.
  2. The husband has a bedroom, living room and toilet.
  3. A guest bedroom and toilet.

Figure 2.0 Floor plan of Case study two

Source: Author


Cultural Considerations in the Design of the Houses

The following factors has been considered as cultural consideration:

  1. Privacy through Segregation:The designs takes care of segregation of female from male visitors by providing separate entrances for female from the rear.This has further been reinforced in first case study by providing a separatedoor from the living room of the wives and attached toilet for visitors.

The husbands section was designed to accommodate male visitors without them intermingling with female members of the house. The dinning in the first case study has a separate W.C. as convenience for the male non-members of household. While in the second case study a self-contain guest room has been provided. These has ensured privacy of female members of the house.

  1. Social cohesion: One of the primary function of traditional court is its ability to provide social cohesion.In both case studies this has not been achieved because the size of the court yard are


inadequate to hold social gathering such as for meeting, ceremonies, resting and even joint eating. In a homogenous cultural setting it is expected that certain elements of the house should be deliberately designed to create social cohesion among members of the same household. This lack of social cohesion is very apparent in the case studies investigated as some of the activities that promote togetherness has been relegated to the separate living rooms. The interview revealed that, during ceremonies the female members and their guest resort using either spaces in frontage that were originally designed for male or sides  backs provided for passage.

  1. Economic activities: Another major function of the courtyard itscapacity for economic activities to take place especially for the womenfolk. The investigation shows that,this cannot be achieve going by size of the courtyards and confirmation from the interviews. Although some the women interviewed are working in public offices. Never the less if the houses were reflective of their culture they could have created an avenue for their empowerment economically.
  2. Domestic activities: Traditional Nigerian architecture has evidently provided for domestic activities reflective of the prevalent cultures. These activities include culinary, washing, grinding, blinding so on. Most instances these takes place in the courtyards. However such activities has not been well catered for in cases investigated where some of these activities takes place in the kitchen. The so called kitchen are not spacious enough for such traditional activities and the households resorted for outdoor kitchens.
  3. Accessibility: Another major provision of the courtyard observed is easy accessibility where by Verandahs were provided for this.



The study investigated cultural efficacy of courtyards in two modern residential houses in Maiduguri. The study shows the effort of its designers to segregate female from male visitors by providing separate entrances for the women and dedication of toilets for different sexes. The investigation further showed the designers effort to use the courtyard to achieved natural ventilation as windows opens to the courtyard.However cultural aspect of courtyard as revealed in literature is beyond privacy but also include aspects of social cohesion, economic activities and domestic chores. These aspect cannot be contained in the courtyard provided going by their sizes and configuration.The Modern residential houses investigated implies a static housing environment designed to satisfy the immediate needs of the occupants, and solve thermal and daylight problems. But they cannot meet the changing socio- cultural needs of the occupants which in long run result to housing dissatisfactions.



From the analysis so far, there is clear relationship between socio-culture and house types. For instance, in traditional houses, dwellings vary, and are required to vary along social hierarchy and where the house retains its domestic form it is due to the core cultural elements. Housing characteristics can be used as a measure of the socio-cultural status of household head, and its impacts on the social class of the homeowner.So this paper recommend that designers of modern residential house in Nigeria wishing to integrate courtyard should have holistic approach where by all aspects of physical and psychological comports are considered as posit in the theoretical framework of this study.



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