There is a direct link to Portland’s school enrollment and housing choices. We want to ensure that Portland has housing options for people in all circumstances, including parents raising children. In order to have healthy schools, we need to provide affordable and appropriate housing options for families.
–Commissioner Erik Sten, City of Portland


The City of Portland invites you to share your ideas on the design possibilities of housing oriented to shared courtyards. Portland is promoting courtyard housing as an additional infill housing type that can provide a quality living environment at densities higher than conventional detached housing.

This design competition will explore possibilities provided by infill housing oriented to shared courtyards, with a particular focus on how courtyard housing can be designed to serve as an attractive option for families with children. A related objective is how this housing might be designed as a feasible and affordable ownership housing possibility for moderate-income households.

Another key objective is to foster innovative ideas on how the courtyard space itself can be designed to meet a multitude of sometimes competing demands: as useable outdoor space for families while also providing stormwater management and other environmental benefits; as a setting for community interaction while accommodating the privacy needs of residents; or as a pedestrian-oriented space while also accommodating cars.

An underlying issue is the question of how courtyard housing can be designed to realize these possibilities in the context of the constrained sites typical of infill development opportunities in Portland. We are also looking for ways in which courtyard housing can avoid a purely inward focus and contribute to Portland’s tradition of street-oriented urbanism.

The competition focuses equally on building design as well as the design of the courtyard space. This is not simply an “ideas” competition, but one that seeks to create a dialogue between designers, builders, and the broader public. In order to transcend the specific stylistic aspects of design and to inform future courtyard housing projects, this competition is structured to engage participants in identifying – through text and diagram – the principles underlying their designs. The competition will result in the publication of winning designs and principles and will be followed by strategies to facilitate built projects.

Ultimately, the goal of this competition is to foster the construction of well-designed courtyard housing projects and, perhaps most important, to engage the public in considering how higher density housing might serve as a housing option of choice for families with children.

(Click here to learn more about the competition background.)