• Millî Kültür

  • Millî Kültür

  • Kültür, milli; medeniyet, milletler arasıdır.

  • "Medeniyet gül alıp gül satmak, gülü gül ile tartmaktır. Ömer Özercan

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Turkish Houses


The Turkish house can be defined as those in which Turks have lived throughout their history. Since they first appeared on the stage of history, their settlements have been greatly diversified. They spread from Central Asia to the Balkans, from North Africa to Arabia and right up to the northern coast of the Black Sea, and founded a number of different states. In our definition of the Turkish house, we can include houses that were inherited from the Ottoman Empire, some remaining examples of which can be traced back to the 17th century, as well as all those which have the following characteristics:

Original room shape: The room is the most important component of the Turkish house. Its characteristics have rarely changed.

Plan Layout: The most characteristic plan types are those with outer or open sofas, using 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 others with extensions of the sofa. Plan types with central sofas emerged in the periods.

Multi-storeyed buildings: Most houses have at least two storeys. The upper storey is the main living area and reveals details about the floor plan. The ground floor generally has a high, solid stone wall, almost like a fortification. The upper floor extends over the street.

Roof Forms: The roof is pitched on all four sides and has a simple form, avoiding indents or extensions. The eaves are wide and horizontal.

Construction: The basic system of construction is the timber frame with in-filling material or lathe and plaster.

All these characteristics are the same for all houses, regardless of the social class of their owners. Wealth is only reflected in the number of rooms and in the decoration. This house type can be compared to a seal which Turkish culture has stamped wherever it has settled. It can immediately be distinguished from houses belonging to other cultures.

There have been relatively few studies of the Turkish house. Sedat Hakkı Eldem, who was quick to notice the significance of the Turkish house and began to put together all the documentation he could find as a young professional, conducted 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.

Archaeologist Mahmut Akok has also contributed to the field with his measured drawings and articles on houses from various regions. In the 1950s, several theses were prepared in the Faculty of Architecture of Istanbul Technical University on the domestic architecture of major towns. Following a silence lasting almost 20 years, recent doctoral thesis and studies have once again taken the subject up, and using more scientific methods they are mainly concentrating on studies of 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 its character as new buildings emerge. Nevertheless, the Turkish house is still an astonishing subject. It is still possible to come across admirable examples of Turkish houses that have not yet been discovered. Most of these may not have measured plans and 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 or a whole floor. The top floor has, through time, become ever more intricate with several projections and a multitude of windows of a standard size. In earlier houses the windows were not glazed, but eventually, as glass became ever more widely used, windows began to glaze panes opening on either side. Vertical sliding windows (sash windows) emerged only after Western influence made its influence felt. The standard size of the window creates a sense of unity with its recurrent rhythm, not only in each house but throughout a whole town. The roof is always pitched on all four sides. This is one of the main distinguishing characteristics of the Turkish house.


The room is the most important unit in every Turkish house. It is possible to sit, recline, wash, eat and even cook in each room. All rooms have similar characteristics. The size may change, but fundamental characteristics do not. These are strictly related to a way of life which has not changed much over time. Consequently, the room has also 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 arrangement is based on the prevailing customs of 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, areas are separated from one another with partitions, or semi-partition levels. The interior of the room has been shaped in dimensions necessitated by human activities. 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. Beds are kept in built-in closets. They are laid out when it is time to go to bed and put away again in the morning. When it is time to eat, the tablecloth, table base and copper tray or wooden tabletop are taken out of the cupboard and put away after dinner.

Thus, the center of the room was always left free. The divans used for seating are placed near the walls. The arrangement for eating and sleeping is the same both in palaces and in tents. The multipurpose use of the room with its furniture-free area is also a characteristic of the Japanese house. It is interesting to note that Japan did not adopt its furniture from China, from which it has borrowed several of its cultural and functional features. Central Asia, which is one of the two origins of the Japanese people, inevitably comes to mind in this context.


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 characteristics of which are basically the same from one to the other. On the other hand, the sofa may vary in all its different aspects. This is why the house type is usually defined by the sofa within it.

Turkish house plan types were first classified by S. H .Eldem. The most significant of these, in the 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, of which there are many beautiful examples. Although they exhibit a lot of variety, there is still 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 especially in summer, the sofa is a busy living and production area. In this plan layout each room represents a tent, while the sofa stands for the natural environment which has been brought under partial control. It was only much later that the colonnade of the sofa was 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 emerged in the 18th century, but it was in the 19th century that they were most widely employed. The population increase in the cities resulted in smaller plots with higher values, which consequently this led to a denser and inward-looking floor plan. The desire for a more comfortable way of life without being exposed to dust and cold, and the need to use the sofa all year round were among the social reasons for preferring this type. This compact plan enabled more rooms to be put in, which when placed side by side eliminated the need for a number of walls, thus leading to a measure of economy. According to another view, the central sofa plan type has been in use since Central Asian; times and in Anatolian-Turkish architecture has been mostly used in medreses, 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 the surrounding areas. In the inner sofa type there is symmetry in only one plane, while in the central sofa type generally symmetry can be found in two planes, perpendicular to one another.


Various factors which have been influential in the design of the Turkish house have already been discussed in the chapters on "Historical Influences" and "Evolution of Forms." All these factors led to the formation of the characteristics of the Turkish house. Once this house type had been developed, it spread all over the area delineated in the preceding chapters, even though there might be great climatic differences between regions. Coming across the same open sofa in both an Antalya house and a Kütahya one is a clear indication of a strong tradition of design. This design offers provisions for both summer and winter use within the same house, hence enabling the implementation of the same house type in many different climatic regions. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Turkish house is a building which uses the same prototype all over. The house design is influenced by such factors as lifestyle and production, the existing building materials and the construction technology influenced by their use, the topography and characteristics of the site, and the structure and wealth of the family. One other main factor is the distance of the region from the nearest cultural centre. The most influential cultural centre was the capital, Istanbul. This was followed by Edirne and other major cities. The degree to which urban fashion was reflected in other areas depended largely on the density of the relations in terms of administration and trade between them. There has always been a tendency to imitate the style used in the capital, although this has rarely happened at the same time everywhere. In most cases, by the time the rural centres adopted the styles of the city, the capital had turned to a new or different architectural style.


The main building material in the Turkish house is wood, and the main building method is generally timber frame. Timber frame construction is compatible with the forest cover of Anatolia and the Thrace region, and is also preferable because these regions are within seismic fault zones. Furthermore, this method enabled quick construction and therefore suited the needs of an ever expanding society, continuously on the move. For the same reason, the details of wood construction are very simple; simple joints and nailed bindings were preferred over complicated joint details. The broad-sectioned timber elements and carefully designed 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 reconstruction within a short time when whole quarters had been destroyed by fire. The way in which people look at life also plays a role in the selection of timber frame construction: Human life is temporary; it is only natural that houses should also be built to last for a temporary period only. There is no reason for greed for worldly belongings. As a result of this outlook, repairing or renewing the house as it wore out helped to update the style and meet the growing needs of the family. On the other hand, communal buildings and religious structures were built to last as long as possible.

Timber frame construction also allowed more windows, building projections and wider 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.

Timber frame construction is capable of meeting different needs of various artistic trends. In the Baroque period, curved stripes were made by carving the wood and applied in the best way. In the neo-classic period, semi-buried columns, triangle heads, plain and squared arches could also be used in wooden houses. The Sultan Abdülhamid period can be considered as a renaissance for wooden houses. Art-Nouveau was totally successfully adapted to wooden buildings. The new curves which followed the Erenköy style were also appreciated and applied. At the end of the 19th century, all these new trends were combined with traditional Ottoman arts, thus producing unique examples of wooden work. With boards, lathes and profiles used in combination, proportionate and rhythmic division appeared on the façades, which were enhanced by the effects of light and shade and sometimes with the addition of coloured decoration, paintings and mouldings.

• Examples Of Turkish Houses

This section was written with the assistance of the book “The Turkish House Tradition and Safranbolu Houses” by Reha Günay, published with the support of the Ministry of Culture.


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