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Safranbolu Houses :: Influences

THE CLIMATE : Although the regions where the Turkish House has spread are generally within the moderate climate zones, significant seasonal differences can be noted in the microclimate, temperature and precipitation rates, both between the north and the south and between the coasts and inlands, due also to the variaton in local topographies. In spite of this fact there is no a striking difference in domestic architecture. The open-sofa plan type, which is one of the most important plan types of the Turkish House, can he seen both along the Mediterrenean coast: in Antalya, which has mild winters and in mid Anatolia: in Ankara, which in turn has very harsh winters. In some regions where the form and structure of the house appears to have ignored the seasonal differences in the climate, people change their enviroment, especially in the summer months, by moving to summer houses, built either in great orchards or on the highlands. It can be argued that this is one reason for having no precautions against the impact of the climate in the houses. Nevertheless, each house has been designed so as to include suitable space for summer and winter living. The middle or intermediary floors are usually more suitable for winter use with their low ceilings and small windows. The tradition of the Turkish house is so strong that, its predomimant characteristices have been carried along with them, wherever the Turks have been, regardless of the climate. The rulers took the lead in this practice.

EARTQUAKES (Seismic Zones) : All the geographic areas where the Turkish House has spread are within seismic zones. It may be due to this fact that the timber frame construction system was devised and widely used. This method is resistant to horizontal forces and is also safer due to its lightness. It can be seen that this method was improved within time. (see Construction Methods)

BUIlDING MATERIALS : Timber which is the main load-bearing material of the Turkish House also defines, its geographic boundaries. As a matter of fact, this house type developed in areas where wood was abundant. In areas such as the Eagean Islands, Central Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia and Egypt where the main material is stone or mud brick, other house types were developed.
The timber building materials were prepared from trees varying from one region to another, in different sizes and sections and using different techniques. The chestnut is the most dependable tree in timber contruction along the Black Sea coast. Oak and yellow fir are prefered in Western and Northern Anatolia, while in the Mediterranean and up on the Tauros mountains cedars, cypresses and junipers are generally used. Different types of pine was prefered in the interiors. The stone used in the foundation and ground floor walls can be found in every region. The infill material are of stone, adobe, brick or wood. Mud and lime mortar could be easily supplied as traditional binding materials. Clay tiles were widely used for roof cladding. Building materials vary from region to region. Cut stone was used in some regions while in others rubble stone with wooden lentils was more commonly used. Generally in humid and windy coasts the exterior was cladded with wood while in others it is lime plastered. In forested areas the roof was cladded with wooden slates (shingles) while in most of the other regions cylindirical clay tiles were used. In dry areas where wood is scarce, flat earth roofs were often prefered, while in areas where slate quarries exist, slate could be used as a roof cladding.


There is insufficient research based on documentation regarding the origins of the house type we are studying. The answers to some questions such as: "is this a type of house which the Turks used to have in the regions from which they originated, or is it something they have developed after having seen similar examples in Anatolia and the Balkans" are not very clear. In studies carried out at Harzem, it has been pointed out that the timber frame and mud-brick infill system of construction has been in use since the 8th century. Since we do not come accross this house type in areas which have never come under Turkish rule, would it be right to claim that it does not originate from a foreign source? On the contrary , wherever the Turks went, even in areas where very strong traditions of domestic architecture already existed, the Turkish house emerges in all its authenticity , with a completly different character from that of the local one. This house is different from the European one. A European house is like a closed box, it is austere and schematic. The Turkish House is organic, it is in continious interrelation with its environment and the landscape through its closed, semi-closed and open areas. These houses have no similarities with ancient Greek, Roman or Balkan houses. In all current publications on vernacular architecture in Yugoslavia as well as in Greece, it is clearly expessed that these houses have come into being with the Turks. Another evidence in this respect is the fact that, in most Balkan countries building elements, architectural space and house furnitures are still mostly refered to with their Turkish names or with words which have been derived from Turkish.

The political and cultural powers alongside other influences which have prevailed throughout history within the geographical boundaries where the Turkish house existed have caused the regional variations.

The largest political and cultural centre is Istanbul. The housing type which developed in Istanbul influenced all the empire with its form, components and decoration. One other major city is Edirne, which became the second capital after Bursa but which had an ongoing influence even after the capital moved to Istanbul. These centres were imitated in all other cities,  just like adopting a certain fashion. Edirne has especially influenced the European wing of the Empire. Areas which, due to their location in Anatolia, have been subject to limited external impact, must have either developed their own architectural style or continiued to build under the cultural influence of the pre-Ottoman reign they were under. A typycal example to this is the influence of  Konya upon the architectural features and details of its neighbouring provinces and its seaport Alanya. Central Anatolia has kept to the tradition of mud- brick (adobe) construction of Prehistoric eras and of Central Asia. The Cappadocian house is under the influence of  Syria. The Eagean coast bears the traces of the Mediterranean housing architecture. The local stoves used in Edirne and the Balkans have Slavonic influences.

Going back in history, it is known that the Turks which came to Anatolia were partly sedentaries and partly nomads. It has been suggested that the acceptance of the upper floor as the main floor of the Turkish House may be a reflection of the so called "tower house", a kiosk type house built on high walls and open to its surrounding with projections, which can be traced right back to Central Asia. Thus, the Turkish house became multi storeyed and the "kiosk" type was created. On the other hand the tents or "yurts" of the nomad Turks have been studied so as to find out to what degree these have been reflected in the Turkish House. The tent has characterized the rooms of the Turkish House. Like a tent, each room has an invariable inner organization as a living unit. Another argument is that the settlement pattern of the nomad tents (oba) is one other characteristic which has been reflected in the Turkish house. According to this, the central space (the sofa) of the Turkish house corresponds to the space left among the tents in a nomad settlement. The room, which is the living unit, is designed with an exterior space around it and jointly they form the plan of the house. It is doubtfull that this exterior space is just a service area, as suggested by some. The exterior space, is more of an abstract nature, through which the room, which has a definite identity as a living unit with invariable characteristics, declares its independence. This space which is open to the exterior in the Turkish house, consists of the area in front of the rooms which can take various names such as "hayat, sergah, hanay, divanhane" and the space in between the rooms: the eyvan. One other interpretation of the eyvan suggest that this form first appeared in the Islamic Architecture and that it takes the name of "beyt" in Arabic and "talar" in lran. The house types which the Turks first encountered and took as an example when they arrived in Anatolia may also be regarded as the origin of the Anatolian-Turkish house. When these influences are further studied, it is possible to trace similarities between the entrance of the "hilani" or the colonaded space with a roof but open on all three sides, (which was common in the adobe architecture of Central Anatolia in the pre-historic era), and the eyvan on the open sofa.  The anteli and eaved space in front of the megaron, the first examples of which can be found in Troy, Beycesultan and Kultepe also resemble the open outer sofa. In later periods the colonades of Greek and Roman temples and buildings with courtyards may also have a similar bearing. We can see that building components such as flat earthern roofs, stoves and furnaces still survive in the same areas. However, this continiuty belongs to a mud-brick architecture. As the timber frame construction system of studs and lintels had been already employed in Anatolia even in the Prehistoric Era, this can be accepted to be a local characteristic. It has not been possible to trace this step by step right up to the Ottomans. We know that in Byzantine times the top floor (the triclinon) was the main living area. Thus we can say that the top floor was equally important in Byzantine and Ottoman periods. There is no clear indication that timber frame construction tradition was common in Anatolia during the Byzantine Period.


SOCIAL STRUCTURE : It has already been mentioned that Turks coming to Anatolia originated from both sedentary and nomadic cultures. This pattern continued also in Anatolia. In general the ruling classes settled down, while it took the nomads a long time to agree to become sedentaries, which they finally accepted with much reluctance. Even today,  you may come across nomads in Anatolia. Thus it is possible to talk about urban and rural cultures. The nomads which eventually settled in their winter shelters, abandoning their seasonal migration habits, were entitled to cultivate the state-owned land and in return they paid taxes and supplied the military force. The cities no doubt had also Greek, Armenean and although fewer in number, Jewish dwellers, former inhabitants of Anatolia. These settled communities were either farmers, craftsmen or dealt with trade. The artisanal organisation established in Byzantine times was preserved and even encouraged by the Turks. Thus it was both possible to increase and control the productive force.

When the ruling classes first arrived in Anatolia they were under Iranian influence; after the conquest of Byzantium they learned the Eastern Christian culture and once they crossed over to the European side (Rumeli) they become acquainted with European culture.


At the begining of the 20 century the traditional large family (extended family) which has been influential in the development of architectural forms was still prevailing all over Turkey. The details given on this topic for the Safranbolu House is valid for the Turkish House in general.

THE WAY OF LIFE (Life Style)

Living close to Nature has been the Turks' significant philosophy of life. This is definitely a habit of the nomadic period. Even after coming to Anatolia, the nomads were reluctant to accept settling down. They first chose a settlement area for winter but left for the highlands and virgin areas as soon as summer arrived. This habit still continues today. Even in Istanbul, up to the late 70s, when economic difficulties were fewer, it was common to move to summer resorts when summer came. Several towns in Anatolia had separate houses in orchards or vineyards, set aside for summer use. This was at the same time a deliberate way of production induced by the subsistence economy.

The instinct of integration with nature is reflected in the domestic architecture through the use of the open sofa. Being a living unit, the room has to be an enclosed space whereas the sofa onto which the room opens, although covered and protected against cold and wind and kept under full control, is in fact an exterior space.

Another product of the trend of living in open air reflected to architecture is the garden pavillion. According to Emel Esin the source of these pavillions which can be found in every home, from the palace to the most humble house, is the Uygur pavilions and the imperial tents (Otag). In miniatures from Iran, Moslem India and later the Ottomans we can come across many pavillions depicted within a garden or amidst a building complex. The Ottoman architecture produced several examples of these, built either of wood or stone, some of which have survived to date.

It is probable that the bay windows projecting towards the garden from the open sofa of the upper floor, which are the expression of the will to open on to nature, may also have been inspired by the garden pavilions.


The daily life throughout the Ottoman lands is quite similar to that described for Safranbolu.


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