Our ideas about human nature influence our living arrangements. At one extreme, we have the single-family suburban home. It maximizes for autonomy and privacy, but does so at the expense of community and belongingness. At the other extreme is a military barracks, which maximizes community and belongingness at the expense of privacy and autonomy.
The Ruist view of human nature acknowledges that we are profoundly social creatures with a strong need for connection and community and that we crave autonomy and privacy. Traditional Chinese courtyard architectecture doesn’t attempt to maximize either priority; instead, it attempts to find the mean.
Each family has its own private space, but the extended family also has shared spaces to come together for communal meals, relaxation, and recreation.
Officials in Australia are experimenting with courtyard architectecture to provide housing for older homeless women. Each woman will have a private room of her own which opens onto a shared courtyard. In addition, communal dining and meeting spaces will be provided for the community to share.