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When we imagine open space at schools, we often think of wide-open, park-like schoolyards with playgrounds and sports fields. But, many of Detroit's historic schools also include smaller outdoor courtyards in a variety of shapes and sizes. When thinking about how to reuse a vacant school building, don't forget to think about new possibilities for courtyards and other open spaces too!

Enclosed Green Space

Five schools in this study feature one or more accessible green courtyards that are completely enclosed. Washington, Oakman, and Jamieson had these spaces from the start, while Hubert and Holcomb formed them as a result of multiple additions. In the older schools, a kindergarten or library bay window extends into the green space.

Semi-enclosed Green Space

Several schools have green space that is surrounded by wings of the school on three sides. At Burbank, Mason, and Parkman, the courtyard is  positioned at the front of the school, creating a public-facing garden flanked by two main entrances. At Carstens, Open, and Coffey, the space is located at the rear and is an extension of the schoolyard. At the other four schools, this area is green, but not an accessible space.

Enclosed Hardscape

Not all enclosed courtyards are green. New and Bethune feature enclosed, accessible paved areas. At Stephens, there is a central lightwell that is not accessible at all.

Semi-enclosed Hardscape

The most common type of courtyard is a partially-enclosed paved area. Typically, these areas are purely utilitarian spaces used for parking and deliveries. Often, these spaces are actually the concrete roof of a basement boiler room—this is where coal was delivered and ash hauled away. The other function of these semi-enclosed spaces was to provide light and ventilation to interior classrooms. They are usually not aesthetically pleasing, but could be repurposed in the future.

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