What is a block courtyard?

Apartment building yards can be completely enclosed courtyards or suburban yards bordering the forest – or anything in between. In this guide, we use the term ‘block courtyard’ to describe the idea of a courtyard shared by several housing companies and used as a green living room shared by the residents. These block courtyards are becoming increasingly popular abroad.

Aerial view of the courtyard of the apartment buildings
The Gripenberg block courtyard in Töölö consists of a large courtyard shared by ten buildings. The residents appreciate the safe courtyard and gather there to eat, have family parties and play. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

The courtyards of apartment buildings differ from each other at present. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some yards grow impressive trees and other greenery, while others remain covered by asphalt. The current state is just a starting point for a block courtyard, as it is possible to develop all kinds of courtyards. There is no one-size-fits-all model for establishing a block courtyard, as each courtyard deserves individual solutions of its own.

The guide primarily focuses on the development of old apartment blocks built before the 1970s. In new residential areas, such as Arabianranta, Kalasatama and Jätkäsaari in Helsinki, the courtyards are already shared, but they can always be improved.

We encourage residents to look at each courtyard and block as a unique milieu. There is something special and worth preserving in most yards. It can be an old tree, an impressive block of stone or a wall that has been covered by moss over time. Each block must be renovated on the basis of the wishes of the residents, so that solutions in accordance with residents’ wishes are actually implemented. This way, lively green areas where residents thrive and feel proud of their own home blocks are created in the city.

The City of Helsinki encourages residents, housing companies and property owners to develop the courtyards of apartment buildings. Often change is only initiated at the residents’ initiative. If you dream of a better courtyard, be brave and ask your neighbours to look at the courtyard from a new perspective: this guide will show you what an attitude like that can achieve. 

Two adults and a child playing football in the sand field in the courtyard
Vallilan Helmi consists of five housing companies that have a shared block courtyard with a popular playing field. It is lined with the residents’ cultivation boxes. Photo: Lasse Lecklin