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Safranbolu Houses :: Evolution of Forms Against External Elements

WINDOWS AND LATTICES

Windows are the eyes of a house which open on to the outside world. It is through these eyes that the world outside is perceived; with its landscape, light, sun, warmth, cold, air, dust, scents and breeze. Tpey open out to nature. On the other hand, they necessitate some precautions against external elements. In Safranbolu, windows emerge as the end-product of a highly developed design concept. One can rarely come across windows of such a rational, functional, yet beautiful nature.

Let us first study the windows from a purely functional aspect:

Illumination:

One of the first things that draws one's attention to the houses in Safranbolu is the vast quantity of windows. In the comer rooms there are generally six windows, three on each side. The open halls often get light from all sides. In projections sticking out between two rooms there are four or five windows, while in bay-windows there are three. There are two windows on each of the eyvans of the hall, some of which have round or four-centered arches at the top. The arches start from above the normal window-top level, therefore these windows are taller than the rest. The surface within the arch is divided into triangles and decorated with coloured glass, resembling in a way, the upper course windows of former times.

Wooden Lattices and Screens:

The hayat and open hall get their light and air through wooden lattices. These are generally made with laths of 4x8 cm or 5x10 cm and run along one of the long exterior sides of the hayat.

"Tomek": The barn and stable get their light and air through a vertical, unglazed slit (tomek) rather like a loophole which appears to be very narrow from the outside but widens towards the interior.

Uppercourse windows: In the beginning of the 19th century there were two rows of windows in some houses. Over the regular row, there were gypsum windows which were given several names such as upper windows, head windows or top windows. These were much smaller than those in the lower row and were fixed.

They had a double surface: internal and external. Nowadays, most of the external surfaces of the top windows in Safranbolu have been demolished for one reason or other, and have been replaced by wooden lattices, as is the case in the summer house of Emirhocazade Ahmet Bey, or with wire screens. These windows were formed by placing gypsum profiles moulded in a geometrical or floral design, within a wooden frame. There can also be seen inscriptions as in the Ahmet Bey house.

Occasionally coloured glass has been used. They usually have an arched top. Only the most significant rooms have upper course windows. They help to illuminate the rooms on the top floor which have a higher ceiling. There may be upper windows in the hall, in addition to those in the rooms. These double row of windows appear to be a design developed during the times when the lower windows were non-glazed. Thus, when the shutters were closed as the only means to protect the room from external elements, the upper row of windows supplied the light necessary to illuminate the room. However, even after the use of glass in the lower casement the construction of top windows and shutters continued. At times when the shutters were inevitably closed to keep out such external elements as storm, hail, dust and excessive sun, the top windows provided light to the interior. Judging from their decorative appearance it may not be wrong to assume that these top windows were appreciated not only for their functional but ornamental value. The light strained through the coloured glass added to the decoration of the ceilings, while the rays danced on the floor on bright days. The neighbours living across the road could not see the interior of the rooms, as the small, decorative pieces of coloured glass blurred their view. It is a pity that the top windows were later abondoned while those already built were closed up as was the case in the summer house of the Asmazlar.

The Lower Row of Windows: These are the regular windows. In the projecting corner rooms the number of windows can reach up to eight. These numerous windows provide the interiors of the houses with an abundance of light. Placed at equal intervals these windows create a certain rhythm within the room. They start from over the leaning cushions of the divan, up to the level of the sergen, the shelf encircling the room.

Exposure to sunlight

The sun enters the rooms from various directions during different times of the day, thanks to the numerous windows. However, the sun is not so welcome in summer when it gives excessive heat and can cause fading of color on almost every surface: carpets, curtains, spreads etc. .This explains why the windows are kept under control through shutters. The air trapped between the wooden shutters and the casements provide an insulation against heat. When moving to the summer house the shutters of the winter house are firmly closed so as to protect the interior from the undesired effects of the sun.

Ventilation and precautions against cold, rain, hailstorm, wind, dust and noise

The Casements:

Up to the end of the 19th century, there were no glazed windows in Safranbolu, specially as far as the summer houses were concerned. The details used in the windows before that confirm this. The control of external elements was secured through the shutters. When these were open, the outside world filled the room with all its glory: the view, light, sun, air and fragrance. This close contact with nature exactly characterizes the summer way of life.

As they generally chose to move to their summer houses as early as possible in spring and return in late autumn, the shutters of these non-glazed windows would sometimes not suffice to hold back the cold and wind. In this case they used mobile frames covered with paper. The frame was divided into four and covered with thick and durable paper, stuck into place with dough. This cheap and easy solution, probably an invention dating back to the nomadic times is reminiscent of the paper-covered windows of Japan (the shoji) and the relation of the Turks with China during their many years of presence in Asia.

The casements have two wings which open on either side. Each wing in turn is formed out of two panes, the lower one being one third of the window height, while the upper pane covers the remaining two thirds. A horizontal bar separates the two panes. This division of the casement is a practical outcome of function: when the lower panes, which are at the face level of those seating on the divan, are opened, they can establish direct contact with the outside world. They can chat with someone on the street or in the garden without having to open the total height of the window. Different rates of ventilation can be obtained by opening either the lower or upper panes or in some instances both. When the lower panes are kept closed while the upper ones are open, the draft does not disturb those sitting in the room.

This arrangement whilst all panes can be opened and even removed from their hinges if desired, also facilitates window cleaning.

The casement is fixed to the window frame with brass hinges and is fastened with a latch. The casement is made of fine wood and the joints of the stiles and rails are secured with pages. This provides flexibility to the joints. The glass panes slide into a groove in the casement  which means that they are not fixed in place with putty and nails. When a broken window pane has to be replaced, the casement is slightly lifted upwards so as to get it off its hinges. The pages on two sides of the casement securing the glass are removed, to be replaced after changing the broken pane.
The other type of glazed window which is in use in Safranbolu is the vertical sash window. These windows must have been introduced in more recent years. They are not widely used. In most cases they have two sashes which are in turn divided into four.

The Shutters: The final and thorough protection of the window and consequently of the house is provided by the shutters, "the black lids", as they are locally called.

These shutters which are made of yellow pine supplied from the nearby forests acquire a chestnut-brown hue with time. They owe the name to the striking contrast they make with the whitewashed walls. The two wings which open outward make an angle of 45 degrees with the exterior surface of the wall when fully opened. Thus the windows appear to be embracing nature with open arms. Each wing is made out of a single piece of wood. Two or three ledges are nailed onto it so as to avoid the twisting of the board. One of the wings has an astragal edge. The hinges are fixed parallel to the rails. There are two long iron rods which keep the shutters open. These prevent the wings from banging on the wall when it is windy. They are called "wind rods". The iron rods are fixed right in the middle of each wing. The hooked edge goes through a ring fixed to the window balustrade rail. Another hook, this time with an anchorlike end,  is fixed to the wing which has the astragal. In order to fasten the shutters this is hooked onto the rail of the window balustrade.

Before the Asmazlar summer house underwent repairs some years ago, the shutters at the back of the house on the top floor were quite different from those widely used. The lower half of each shutter folded upwards; this doublefold was then lifted and held in place with an iron rod forming a slanting overhang in front of the window. In the Kizil Ayan house in Bulak village, the lower half of the hall shutters open sideways while the upper half is again lifted to form a slanting overhang.

Safety Precautions

In Safranbolu appropriate measures have been taken so as to guard the house against any intrusion from the outside and to prevent the children from falling out of the windows.

The Classical Window Grille: In the old houses we can see a wooden, square-grid window grille which is an imitation of the classical Ottoman iron grilles and which covers the whole face of the window. The grille generally consists of seven horizontal bars running through three vertical ones thus forming the square grid. The vertical bars are thicker at the points where the others pass through so as to form knotted joints.

The Fretted Fence: These consist of a horizontal wooden rail fixed to both sides of the window frame and three vertical stiles running between the window sill and the rail. The stiles are joined to the rail. All pieces are made of ornately fretted wood and display a variety of beautiful examples.

The Turned Window Balustrade: Window balustrades which are given rounded profiles by wood-turning are called "window balls" in Safranbolu. The number of vertical bars can vary between one and four. Occasionally the balustrade is duplicated on the upper half of the window.

These balustrades also serve to partially hide the inside of the room. Apart from this, their most important role is within the system which keeps the shutters open or closed, as the "iron rods" and "anchor hooks" are fastened either to rings fitted to the balustrades or fences.

Opening on to the Landscape and the Street

As the number of the windows increase and the more they are oriented to different directions, they can open to the outside world from a great variety of angles. In the projecting comer rooms one can look out in all four directions through eight windows. People approaching the house from the street can be seen from the side windows. The windows over the entrance door of the house have a latticed projection which conceals women leaning out of the window so as to get a better idea about who is knocking at the door. Likewise in the houses of the sehir, there are lattices at the windows. As the settlement is not so dense in the Baglar region, it is not likely that strangers frequently cross the streets therefore latticed windows are rare.

In the early years of the Turkish Republic a decision was taken regarding the removal of the wooden screens and lattices. In the few houses where this was actually practised, paper strips were pasted to the window panes in order to, partially, perform the function of the lattices.

THE ROOFS AND EAVES

The cover that protects the house from the rain, snow and sun is the roof, while its projections to the exterior of the house are the eaves. In Safranbolu roofs have been handled in the most uncomplicated manner with the aim of avoiding seepage problems. This explains why the eaves generally do not follow the line of the projections and recesses of the house but end in a straight line causing no distortion in the square or rectangular form of the roof. If the rooms are projecting and the eyvan of the upper hall is recessed the eaves are wider in front of the eyvan.

If the eyvan of the hall projects, then so do the eaves. This projection may be either secured by extending the main roof  or it may be a separate small roof with a triangular gable wall, sloping on two sides, joined to the main roof. The end-line of the eaves is not modified for every recess, therefore the eaves widen at certain points. In houses built on irregular sites, the triangular projections are gathered under the eaves which end in a line joining the tips' of the triangles. Starting from the street line, a passer-by glancing upwards is faced with an exciting and lively mixture of lines and directions: the cornices of each floor, the projections and their supporting brackets, and finally the border of the eaves are almost independently oriented. The projections of the toilets and wash-rooms are generally kept under the regular extension of the roof slope. The hipped roof slopes on all four sides with a slant of approximately 20 degrees. The roofing material is semi-cylindirical clay tiles. All tiles are of the same dimension. A double row of  tiles are laid side by side at the ridge. The eaves are quite wide, with no claddmg beneath. Thus the rafters, purlins, roof tiles or subtile cladding is visible when looked at from below.

There is a built-in ladder inside the house leading to the attic. Another more simple one takes you from the attic to the roof-top, enclosed in a prismatic room protruding from the roof. This constitutes an interesting architectural element with its relation to the roof and the roof slope as well as with its form.

The wide eaves protect the walls, the windows, the inscriptions and other decoration on the exteriors of the walls, the open halls and even those passing by in the street, from the rain and sun. As a matter of fact, the eaves which are wider than usual over the projections of the top floors do provide an overhang onto the street. The rain-water runs freely down from the eaves; there are no gutters or down-spouts.

There is a fascia board at the edge of the eaves to prevent the tiles from sliding down. The last row of tiles rests against this fascia board which, in the older examples was fastened to the roof with joints at certain intervals. In general the roof form does not necessitate a valley. It is only in the later examples where the projecting hall has a gable roof connected to the main roof, that this problematic crossection has emerged.

In general, the eaves have been rounded at the corners.

The roof is of great significance in wooden houses. A wooden house which gets moisture from the roof is vulnerable to rapid decay. Consequently, the roof has to be immediately repaired in the case of any seepage or leakage.

PRECAUTIONS AGAINST HEAT AND COW

These can be handled in two phases: the design of the house in relation to its physical environment and the additional measures taken when this alone proves to be insufficient.

Design Principles Against Cold:

The sehir; which is the winter settlement area of Safranbolu, is located in valleys which are protected from the winds. Thus the first factor which plays a role in chilling a house is almost eliminated ona city-wide basis. Apart from this, the houses situated on both sides of narrow streets and the high garden walls also provide a wind shield. But the ultimate protection against the severe winds is provided by the shutters. Once the shutters are securely fastened, the effect of the wind is minimized. In winter, making use of direct sunlight in heating the room is much easier in rooms facing the south. The middle floors which have lower ceilings and are better protected from external influences compared to the other floors, are favoured sitting areas in winter. The windows of the middle floor are also smaller and less numerous. The winter rooms are smaller than the rest. The arrangement of the two-phased entrance to rooms used in houses with open halls is utilized also for the winter rooms. The adobe used as an infill material in the wood-frame construction provides good insulation. When necessary, the floor is also insulated from beneath with adobe mud.

Other Measures: Design principles alone do not suffice to counteract the cold. For this reason, fires are lit in the hearths, the charcoal is piled into braziers and brought close to the divans. It has already been mentioned that heating stoves were also in use from the late 19th century onwards. There may be need for still other precautions in spite of the hearth and stove. Paper strips are stuck with flour paste over the gaps between the window frame and the casement. Quilted curtains are hung either outside the entrance door of the rooms or in-between the entrance alcove and the room.

Heating Measures in Idle Summer House: It is still spring when the family arrives at the summer houses. Therefore early mornings, evenings or certain days can be quite chilly. In such weather, fires are lit in the hearths. It is the same in autumn. When the cool days arrive the family gathers in the winter rooms on the middle floor, especially in the kitchen. They wear thick woollen clothes and padded cardigans. They have to move back to their winter homes before the worry of being cut off from the carsi due to heavy snow-fall gets too strong. Home and work place are almost side by side in the sehir, therefore there is no problem of  transport.

The indirect room entrances of the houses with open halls in the Baglar district, the wooden screen or cupboard which conceals the room on entering from the hall, are as much a result of design against cold as they are a reflection of traditional attitudes.

In Safranbolu firewood is commonly used as fuel. Pine cones are also used, both for kindling and as fuel.

The Fireplaces

As each room is considered an independent living unit,  it must have the necessary provisions for heating. It is generally the hearth that provides this. In the room generally used as a kitchen, the hearth functions also as a cooking stove.

One wall of each room is allocated to the hearth and the cupboards.  There is a thick wall behind the hearth for heat insulation. This wall is made of stone or adobe with a thickness of 80 to 100 cm, incorporating the fireplace. Apart from the space occupied by the hearth and its flue, the chimney from the hearth of the room below (provided there is one), the depth of the wall is utilized for cupboards. It is only the hood or mantel of the hearth or its shelf that protrudes from the wall surface while the fireplace constitutes the sole recess. The base of the fireplace which is incorporated in the depth of the wall is a rectangle with rounded corners. It extends towards the room in a rectangular or semi-circular form. When the extension is rectangular, "arm-rest stones" are placed on either side preventing the harm sparks may cause. If there are divans along the hearth wall the fireplace is level with these. The presence of a smoke shelf in the flue proves that the people of Safranbolu had a sound knowledge of fireplaces. The chimney from the hearth of the floor below emerges as a plastered surface (chimney brest) among the cupboards. Apart from the closet where the beddings are stored and the cupboards, there are three small niches in a vertical line on each side of the hearth. Hearth forms display a great variety.

Fireplaces with Hoods: These are the oldest type of fireplaces. Over the wooden mantel there is a semi-conical hood also made of wood. Both the hood and the cap have seven lobes. The smoke is channelled through the mantel and hood into the flue and the chimney. The sergen continues at the intersection of the mantel and hood. There is a decorative,  profiled cornice below the sergen running along the mantel. The tip of the hood may touch the cornice of  the ceiling. The skirts of the mantel are also decoratively bevelled.

In the Asmazlar sehir house, there is a fireplace with a gypsum mantel and hood, decorated with inscriptions and reliefs; one of the good examples from the Baroque period.

Fireplaces with Small Niches: The wooden mantelpiece of these fireplaces project 15-20 cm parallel to the hearth wall. The top of the mantelpiece is level with the sergen. Below, it ends with a decorative arch over the fireplace. There are one or two rows of small niches on the mantelpiece.

This style has been imitated in gypsum in the Asmazlar §ehir house.

Fireplaces with a Flower Niche: These are lime plastered or stone fireplaces. There is a plastered surface instead of the hood. This surface (overmantel) has a recess (the flower niche) decorated with mouldings all round. There is a decorated arch over the hearth which may in turn have a mantel shelf over it. Bearing the traces of the Baroque style, these type of fireplaces are locally called "European fireplaces".

After heating stoves became widely used the function of the fireplace diminished. As a practical solution they opened a hole in the overmantel and connected the stovepipe to the existing chimney. This is why some of the mantels and hoods disappeared. When the hearth finally lost its function, people began to use the fireplace to store away firewood in winter or braziers and similar oddities in the summer, not neglecting to hang a curtain over the opening of the fireplace so as to conceal the untidy appearance. This curtain also served to improve the combustion in the stove.

Smaller fireplaces were built in the pool rooms or pavilions. They were used for making coffee and their embers were used for the water pipes (nargile). On the platform of the open hall of the Kabakcillar summer house, there is one such hearth with a cap, it is small, but delicately built. Sometimes the hearth in the kitchen is slightly larger. But the biggest fireplace in the house is, no doubt, the one for the cauldron in the hayat.

Design Against the Heat

The best precaution against the heat of summer is to move to the summer living area which is at a higher altitude and has much more open space. It is much cooler and airy there than it is in the §ehir. Houses with open halls provide a cool living space in summer. On very hot summer nights, the hall is utilized as a sleeping place. The unglazed windows are features which supply fresh air day and night. The upper floors of the houses are even more airy , having higher ceilings and plenty of windows. The ceilings of the open halls are not cladded, thus the heat is not trapped between the tiles and the ceiling.

Life in the open air: The gardens shaded with trees; the pools with fountains, the rooms with pools or wells eliminate any likelihood of feeling too hot.

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