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Turkish Houses

What is a Turkish House?

The Turkish House can be defined as the types of houses which Turks have lived in throughout history. Since they first appeared on the stage of history , their settlement areas have been greately diversified: They have spread from Central Asia to the Balkans, from North Africa to Arabia and right up to the north coast of the Black Sea, and have evolved into several different forms. In our definition of the Turkish House, for the purpose of this study, we have onl included those that were  inherited from the  Ottoman  Empire,  remaining examples some of which can be traced back to the 17th  century. A typical Turkish House should have the following characteristics:

Original room arrangement:

The room is the main component of the Turkish House. Throughout the studied period its characteristics have barely changed.

Plan Layout:

The most characteristic plan types are those with outer or open sofas, utilizing projections and eyvans. The authentic aspect of these plan types is the independent nature of the room, which instead of being adjacent is separated from the other with the extentions of the sofa, Plan types with central sofas emerge in the later periods.

Multi-storey buildings:

Most houses have at least two storeys. The upper storey is the living area and has the to suit plan layout. The ground floor generally has a high, solid stone wall, almost like a fortification. The upper floor extends over the street with projections.

Form of the roof: The roof slopes  on all four sides and has a simple form, avoiding indents or extentions. The eaves are wide and horizontal.


The basic  system of construction is the timber frame with infilling material or the lathe and plaster.

The main reason for this recent interest is the recognition of the fact that the traditional housing pattern is rapidly disappearing and losing character as new buildings emerge. Nevertheless, the Turkish House is still an astonishing subject.  Wandering  among  Turkish  houses  you  may  come  across  some admirable ones not yet discovered. Most of these may not have measurec drawings; may not even have been photographed properly.


A ground floor closed to the street with a stone or adobe wall and an upper floor which sits on either load bearing stone walls or wooden studs characterizes the house type generally seen within the geographical boundaries where the Turkish house is to be found. The upper floors have a timber frame construction. The middle floor, if there is one,  has a low ceiling and is either a mezzanine floor or a whole floor.The top floor has, through time, become ever more lively with several projections and with a multitude of windows which are of a standard size. In the earlier houses the windows are not glazed, but eventually, as glass is subject to wide-spread use, windows have glazed panes opening on either side. Vertical sliding wiridows (sash windows) emerge only after Western influence shows up. The standard size of the window creates a sense of unity with its recurrent rythm, not only in each house but throughout the town. The roof always slopes on all four sides. This is one of the main discriminating characteristics of the Turkish House.


The room is the most significant unit in every Turkish House. Each room has the ability to meet the needs of a couple. It is possible to sit, recline wash, eat and even cook in each room. Each room has identical charact size may change but not the qualities. These are strictly related to the way of life which has not changed much through time. Consequently the room has remained the same. An arrangement which allows for change has been developed, so as to meet the prerequisites of all the different functions  mentioned above.  This arragement has  been based on the prevailing customs of the nomadic times. The tent which was the  living unıt then has now been replaced by the room. The tent also has areas which are not strictly delineated, allocated to different functions. In the room areas separated from one another with partitions, semi-partitior levels. The interior of the room has been shaped in complianc dimensions which human functions nessesitate. The room can serve different functions as needed, with the very few pieces of movable furnıture it contains. These are immediately put away once there is no more use for them. The beds are kept in built-in closets, they are layed out when it is time to go to bed and are put away once again in the morning. When it is time to eat, the tablecloth, table base and copper tray or wooden tabletop is taken out of the cupboard and is put away after dinner. The centre of the room has been left free for this purpose. The divans used for seating are placed along the walls. The arrangement for eating and sleeping is the same, whether it be in the palace or the tent . The multipurpose use the room furniture-free surface is also a characteristic of the Japanese japanese house. It is interesting to note that Japan has not adopted its furniture from China from which it has borrowed several of its cultural and functional features.At this point inevitably Central Asia, which is one of the two origins of the Japanese, is  called to mind.


The plan of the Turkish house is formed with the arrangement of the rooms around a sofa. The room is a living unit, the form, size and qualities of which show a very insignificant difference from one to the other.On the other hand the sofa is variable with its every characteristic. This is why the house type is usually defined by its sofa.

The Turkish house plan types were first classified by S.H.Eldem. The most significant of these, with proper order of development are: Outer sofa, inner sofa and central sofa types.

Plan Types with Outer Sofa:

This is one of the oldest types of the Turkish House and has many beautiful examples. It has a lot of variety but very little symmetry. The sofa is exposed to the outside world with no wall to hide it away. It is an excellent reflection of the Turkish way of life with very intimate relations with nature and the transition from the nomadic life in tents to permanent settlements. In good weather and.specially in summer the sofa is an intense living and production area. In this plan layout each room represents a tent while the sofa stands for the natural environment under  partial control. It is only much later that the colonade of the sofa has been enclosed with glazing.  The richest examples are those with bay windows and  eyvans. The corner sofa type was until recently built with its sofa closed to the exterior. This plan type continued up to the 19th century.

Inner and Central Sofa types:

These came into the picture in the 18th Century  but  it  was  in  the  19th century  that  they  were  widely implemented. The population increase in cities resulted with smaller plots with higher values and consequently this led to a more dense and inward plan. The desire for a more comfortable life without being exposed to dust and cold and the need to use the sofa all year round are among the social reasons of prefering this type. This compact plan enabled putting in more rooms which when placed side by side, eliminated the use of a number of walls,  thus leading to some economy. According to one other view the central sofa plan type has been in use since the Central Asian times and in the Anatolian-Turkish architecture it has been mostly used in the madrasas, mosques and: mansions. From the 18th century onwards it was revitalized and was first used in the houses of the ruling classes in large cities and in time also in their environment. In the inner sofa type there is symmetry only in one direction, while in the central sofa type generally symmetry can befound in two directions, perpendicular to one another.


The  main  building  material  in  the  Turkish  house  is  wood and consequently the building method is generally timber frame. Although some information has been given on the origins of the timber frame construction in the section on the "Historical Influences", it is difficult to say if this goes back to the times before the Turks came to Anatolia. The timber frame construction is compatible with the forest cover of Anatolia and the Trace region and is also preferable because these regions ar within the  seismic  zones.  Furthermore,  this  method enabled quick construction and therefore suited the needs of an ever expanding society, continuosly on the move.
For the same reason the details of wood construction are very simple; simple joints and nailed bindings have been prefered to complicated joint details. The broad-sectioned timber elements and carefully designe details seen in German, British or Japanese communities do not exist in the Turkish house. It is not just a coincidence that the same simple construction details can be traced in America, where throughout their history the people have been on the move towards the west.

This construction method also facilitated the reconstruction, within a short time when whole quarters were destroyed instantenously by fire. The way in which people view life also plays a role in the selection of timber frame construction:  Human life is temporary; it is only natural that houses also built to last for a temporary period. There is no reason for greed for wordly belongings. As a result of this outlook repairing or renewing th house as it wore out helped to update its style and meet the growing new needs of the family. On the other hand the communal buildings an religious structures were built to last perpetually.

The timber frame construction also facilitated opening more windows building projections and wide eaves. This provided control over climatic conditions, and enabled the building to breathe in humid climates which, in turn, helped prevent condensation and moisture in the rooms.

With boards, lathes and profiles used in combination, proportionate and  rithmic divisions were provided on the façades, which were enhanced by effects of shadow and light and sometimes with the addition of coloured decoration, paintings and mouldings.


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