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Safranbolu Houses :: Forms


When the Turks arrived in Anatolia the towns were within fortifications. Most Byzantine cities had by then lost their richness and power. With the arrival of the Turks these towns were revitalized and started new development. The Turks which came and settled in groups led by religious leaders established various quarters. The other religious or ethnic groups also had their own separate quarters in the towns. These quarters were named either after their religious leader or after the town or nomadic tribe from which they originated. The settling down of the nomads was a much slower process. They settled outside the towns. In this way the towns began to grow beyond the walls in a short time. This is not a planned growth. Nevertheless the houses which are generally located in a valley, lean against the slope without blocking each other's view and do not present a disorderly appearance from the other side of the valley. The grading of the site has been well calculated. There is one main street which is the spine of the whole settlement.

The irregular (curvelinear) streets and cul-de-sacs which form the transportation network branch out in an organic pattern. The streets in town do not intersect at right angles. Steep streets have been provided with steps. The street design provides the necessary width and slope either for pedestrians alone or (else) for loaded animals such as horses or donkeys. The walls at street corners are chamfered. Traditions require that the walls of the ground floor as well as those encircling the garden are built high so as to hide and protect the privacy of life within the house. Consequently, the street is almost like a corridor with occasional walls of either stone or adobe rising on either side. The projecting bay windows and eaves of houses and the branches of trees almost cover the street. Thus these streets are not bare or consist of piles of stone like in some European towns. The streets do not have a regular width all along. There are fountains in places where the street widens or at street corners. The stone-clad streets are paved so as to have a slope towards the middle from either side. The middle axis has been emphasized by two rows of large stones. The rain-water runs along this axis and thus the houses and gardens are protected from flooding. There is no need for pavements, so they have been omitted. The streets lead to the town centre. Mosques, minarets, a graveyard with its own cypress grove, tombs, fountains, and big, domed, stone buildings such as caravanserais, hammams, madrasas and bedestans are located mostly on flat land in the centre of the town. This area gives a completely different picture from the quarters of habitation. There is a great difference of form, colour and texture between the domes cladded with lead and house roofs covered with tiles. The whole settlement can be viewed against the background of hills and mountains.


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 windows (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.


 In spite of the lack of sufficient data, the evolution of the form of the Turkish House from the 15th Century onwards can be studied from some of the oldest examples such as the imperial lodge of the Yesil Mosque in Bursa and some documents which although not directly related to the Turkish House, bear some evidence in this respect. The characteristics related to the form of the Turkish House and its evolution has been best documented in the measured drawings and restitutions of S.H. Eldem.

According to these studies, although there are no remaining examples, it can be assumed that houses of the 15th and 16th centuries were single storeyed or maisonette type buildings. Rooms are lined along an outer sofa. There is an eyvan between the rooms and a colonade in the outer sofa. The walls are built of thick adobe. The exterior surface may be either plastered or cladded with glazed or non-glazed brick. There are in-built closets and cupboards in the rooms and niches on either side of the hooded stove. Entrance to the rooms is indirect. Doors are low. Non-glazed windows have wooden shutters. The upper course of windows provide sufficient light although small in size. Either coloured gypsum work or painting is used for interior decoration. Most probably the hood of the fireplace and the niches are also made of gypsum.

The same plan continues in the 17th century. It now becomes more apparent that the house consists of two storeys. There can sometimes be an intermediate floor in between. Thick stone or adobe walls encircle the house on all three sides. There are few windows on the exterior facade. The shutters open into the thickness of the wall. The colonade of the open sofa which runs along the whole length of the house either has simple capitals with carved endings or are linked to one another with Bursa arches. The staircase is in front of the open sofa. Sometimes there is a flight of stairs on either side, linked to the sofa with a landing. There is an eyvan between rooms and a raised platform on either end of the sofa. Towards the end of the century these raised platforms will develop into projecting rooms with bay windows, thus the sofa will diminish in size. Sometimes a stove for giving light (ciralik) can take its place on these raised platforms. The walls of the rooms facing the sofa are built in the timber frame-infill technique. From the middle of the 17th century onwards, the rooms begin to project and open onto the street with bay windows. The upper course windows are small and either have a geometric pattern or are decorated with designs depicting a mosque, mihrap, mimber, pavillion or cypress trees. In the less thick walls, window shutters open onto the exterior. By now the projection wall also has a timber frame construction.


When we arrive at the 18th century, timber frame contruction is applied to all the walls of the building, thus making it possible to open windows wherever desired on all four sides. One main difference has occured in the plans: rooms have been placed around a central sofa. This trend began in Edirne in the second half of the 17th century and was adopted in Istanbul at the start of the 18th century. As the number of eyvans increase the sofa can take a T form and open to the outside or take a crucifix form and remain closed. In the rural areas, open sofas continued throughout the 18th century. The colonade of the sofa is arched with lath and plaster and decoratively painted. It was in Edirne that the colonades of the open sofa first began to be part of an enclosed space. The kiosk rooms with bay windows project from the sofa. The rooms grow larger and project in two directions. Thus the mass of the house begins to liven up. The doors of the rooms are placed in chamfered corners. Cupboards are no longer inbuilt, they run along the full length of the wall. The fireplaces project out when the walls are carcass. Long and curvelinear brackets support the projections. The upper course windows are placed higher. On the exterior facades, paint is used for making alternating patterns of cut stone or brick. In time this pattern has been transformed into a decoration of a schematic nature.

Between 1730-40 the Baroque influence is first felt in the decorative branch of the Turkish Arts. Even if the plan remains the same, gradually, the components of the building and the room begin to reflect the Baroque form and decoration very intensely. Paintings on the interior walls, especially within the framed areas over the shelves, begin to depict bunches of flowers, flowers in vases, fruits in baskets or bowls, curtains, branches entwined with fme leaves and furthermore achantes, garlands, volutes. It is also possible to see the first attempts for perspective drawings. These decorations are rarely used on the exterior of the building. City scenes are usually painted over the closet. Red, blue and gold gilt are the best loved colours. On wooden surfaces, especially on the doors of closets and cupboards Edirne-style oil painted floral designs are to be seen. Spiral centre pieces are inserted in the ceilings. The hood of the fireplace is made of gypsum. Occasionally it can be made of marble, with Baroque curves. Baroque curves have also influenced the wooden niches. The bay windows are corbelled with lath and plaster and the same is used to provide a curved surface beneath the large projecting eaves, both being decorated with colourful paintings. The colonades of the sofas no more have Bursa arches but are circular or S shaped Baroque arches, with lath and plaster and painted decoration. The use of  lath and plaster allows a smooth finish between the chamfered surfaces over comer doors and the ceiling. The sofa is separated from the eyvan with an arched, lath and plastered colonade. Towards the end of the century the Baroque influence is also felt in the plan and subsequently the sofa first begins to acquire an oval form in Istanbul.

In the 19th century the influence of the Empire style is felt. This style simplifies the plan, the facades and the decoration, and curvelinear surfaces are less used. By now foreign architects have entered the picture, especially in Istanbul. The simplicity encountered in this period is partly due to the prevailant economic conditions. Plans with inner sofas are widely used. Central sofas are abandoned. The Toscan-Doric style engaged on colomns on the facades, the triangular pediments, circular or flat arches, reliefed binding stones, pseudo-mouldings and other decoration such as rosettes, garlands, : acanthus leaves, arms, flags and torches forming coat of arms, musical instruments, vases and flowers are patterns which define the empire style. The timber frame construction is either plastered or cladded with wood. There are fewer projections, the eaves have shrunken and have been cladded with wood. The windows have grown larger and have increased in number, becoming a determining module in the layout plan of  the house. Windows reach right to the floor in the sofas and have circular arches overhead. Upper course windows and wooden shutters have disappeared. Rooms are no more entered from the corners. Raised gysum frames, occasionally with bunches of flowers relieved inside, begin to be used on the interior walls. The face of the cupboards is simplified. A semicircular flower niche with a shelf is placed in the centre. Those niches which have smaller cells on either side are called "serbetlik". Inside the niche, either landscapes or wonders of new technology such as trains and ships are depicted. During the period of Abdulmecid, Baroque decoration joins the Empire style. During the reign of Abdulaziz decoration is simplified and the Classical Ottoman style is also revived, even if  for a short period. The room is entered from its centre through a double winged door. A chair-rail encircles the room all along the walls. The ceilings are plastered and have landscapes painted on them. Flower niches and others such as "serbetlik" are less used. Ceramic tile stoves begin to replace the fireplace.

The Abdulhamid era is under the influence of the eclectic style of the period. Apart from the Turkish architects trained in Europe, foreign architects have a share in this trend. Even before the Abdulmecid period the influence of the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque styles could be traced, first in the palaces and then in the architecture of the masonry and wooden houses. During the reign of Abdulhamid a new style of architecture called the "Erenkoy Style" becomes the fashion. As the name implies, this style is to be found mostly withinin the summer resorts around Istanbul. These are houses which resemble the Swiss chalets or the colonial British houses with their towers, highly ornate, carved out architraves and balustrades, gable balconies with pediments and shuttered windows.

The Art Nouveau style which was first introduced by the Italian architect D'Aronco who came to Istanbul in 1854, was used first in stone buildings and subsequently in wooden houses. It was assimilated and implemented by local architects and masters with great success, to such extent that a unique Istanbul Art Nouveau style was created and prevailed until the 1920s. The towers and gable balconies which were the fashion of the period continued to exist in this style. Windows were enlarged by placing several of them side by side and the tops were divided into small squares, decorated with stained glass. This style was in most cases used alongside the eclectic style of the period. There are several examples where characteristic features of the Baroque, Ottoman and Art Nouveau styles can be found side by side. Carved or applied flowers, branches or creeping vines coexist with straight parallel lines or circular and ellipsoidal forms.

The fashion of oriental architecture first created by foreign architects by combining Islamic architectural forms with Classical and specially Gothic styles was accepted by the Turkish architects from 1920 onwards and continued until the early years of the republic under the name of Neo- Classical Ottoman style. In houses built in this style it is possible to find the monumental portals of Seldjuk and Ottoman architecture alongside Bursa arches, ogeval arches, pointed arches, wide eaves, epigraphs, framed inscriptions and palmettes, braided mouldings, niche patterns, stucco stalactites and intermingled stars. In some examples the corners and centre of the mass is raised and covered with a dome. These houses may be constructed of wood as well as of stone.


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 characteristics. The 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 design of 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 unit 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 these areas are separated  from one another with partitions, semi-partitions or floor levels. The interior of the room has been shaped in compliance with the dimensions which human functions nessesitate. The room can serve different functions as needed, with the very few pieces of movable furniture 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 and the furniture-free surface is also a characteristic of the 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 be found in two directions, perpendicular to one another.




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