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 only 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, (see Turkish House Plan Types Fig.1). 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.
Construction: The basic system of construction is the timber frame with infilling material or the lathe and plaster.
All these characteristics are the same for all houses, regardlesss of the societal class of their owner. Wealth is only reflected in the number of rooms and the decoration. This house type is like a seal the Turkish culture has stamped wherever it has set foot. It can immediately be discriminated from the houses belonging to other cultures, and makes its presence felt.
Few people have made thorough studies of the Turkish House. Sedad Hakki Eldem, who was quick to notice the significance of the Turkish House and began to put together all documentation he could find as a young professional, made the earliest, most comprehensive and competent studies in this field. Some of these were published only a short time before his death. Thus we can study the last significant examples of the Turkish House from his books. Archeologist Mahmut Akok has also contributed to the field with his measured drawings and articles on houses from various regions. In the 1950s, several thesis were prepared in the Faculty of Architecture of the Technical University of Istanbul, on the domestic architecture of important towns. After a mute period of almost 20 years, recently doctoral thesis or student studies have once again taken up the subject, and using more scientific methods they are mainly concentrating on studies of the smaller towns.
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 measured drawings; may not even have been photographed properly.