Wooden Houses of Anatolia
Traditional Housing Units of Yörük Village and Their Architectural Characterictics
Today the units of the settlement texture of Yörük Village constitute the
last existing representative of the past lifestyle. Among the houses the oldest
one was built during the 17th. Century, whereas the the majority of them dates
back to the end of the 19th Century. Housing units of Yörük Village, have the
same characteristics as the house buildings known as the “Traditional Housing
Units” whose ground floor have been built of stone and upper storeys have been
built with the timber framed technique. Such houses, which present significant
differences in accordance with the climatically conditions and material
availability throughout western and northern Anatolia, constitute a specific
housing unit type, which can be found especially in the Balkan Peninsula.
Furthermore, shores which support dows, projections styled differently on each
house, are also among the building elements which create variety and richness on
the front faces of the houses. So even today, it seems possible to protect some
samples of our common cultural heritage by intervening in time in such places
where the “rent pressure” has not yet reached.
THE CONCEPT OF YÖRÜK VILLAGE HOUSES
Yörük Village is located in the central Black Sea Region and administratively
attached to Karabük Province-Safranbolu County.
This Village is a settlement center, which is established on a slightly
inclined plain and contains 144 housing units. Today the units of the settlement
texture of Yörük Village constitute the last existing representatives of the
past lifestyle. Out of these 119 traditional type houses, 86 were registered in
1997 by the technical staff of the Ministry of Culture “Cultural Heritage
The most significant characteristic of the layout is the linear arrangement
of house buildings, which are very near to each other in rows on a main axle,
instead of cluster-type grouping. This main axle ends at a small square around
which the village mosque, coffeehouse and the fountains. Two more streets open
to this road, which become somewhat narrower after passing through the square.
The most frequently seen houses in the village are those having their main
entrances on the road and their gardens at the back (sometimes on the sides),
built in rows, adjacent or very near to each other. However, there are some
mansions, which are surrounded by a garden on its four sides.
Since every house has its own garden, the garden walls have a special
significance as an environmental element. The present layout system of the
village does not allow to perceive the whole of it at once; rather, a person can
see only his immediate environment of the street he stands on.
In Yörük Village, which is a typical settlement of the Ottoman period,
housing units have been built on plots with different dimensions and they
themselves have different plans and front faces being far from monotonous
appearance. Besides the effect of the land-plot formations, this form of
settlement/layout must be the result of several other factors such as to protect
the buildings from dominant winds, to have them face towards the street, the
view, the sunlight, etc. this layout texture, which exhibit variations from the
standpoint of building-road relation, presents a dynamic and lively appearance.
The fact that the houses have been built on orderly arranged plots on a very
slightly inclined land, prevents to a large extend to have different forms
between the ground and living floors which are characteristic for these type of
buildings. “Motion Sense” created by the balconies, overhangs and bay-windows on
their front faces can be considered as a general characteristic of such timber
cross-beam type houses. Furthermore, shores which support dows, projections
styled differently on each house, are also among the building elements which
create variety and richness on the front faces of the houses.
Traditional houses and courtyard walls, which fringe both sides of the
streets which are among the main elements of old urban texture, create a form
quite different from each other and far from being monotonous. Such varied
perspectives give the streets richer characteristic from the planning and
Organic distribution (lay-out) on land of the traditional type houses, whose
ground floor built of stone and upper floors built with the timber-framed style,
exhibits a form which conforms with the Classical Ottoman lay-out design (Our
old houses are called under such various names as “Turkish Houses”, “Ottoman
houses” or “Traditional Houses” by different researchers. In reality, such
houses, which present significant differences in accordance with the
climatically conditions and material availability throughout Anatolia,
constitute a specific housing unit type which can be found specially in the
The majority of the houses has two floors and a few of them are three-storey
houses. This makes the settlement center near to more “urban” characteristics
rather than the rural one. This characteristic, which indicates a high
economical level that the village has had once, can also be noticed from the
craftsmanship of the ornaments inside of the large mansions in the village.
Housetops of these traditional houses have wide eaves and roofs laid with old
type “Turkish Tiles”. Belvederes on the top of some larger mansions give an
additional aesthetic value to their appearances. Additionally, contrast surfaces
which have been formed between the outer walls covered with cream coloured paint
and dark brown cross-beams, make the house fronts even more interesting.
Moreover, contrary to the fact expected from such type of settlements, these
variations and differences exhibit an integrity, harmony and order as though
they were constructed by the hand of a single and same master builder. The truth
of the matter is that this is the sign and the result of the conveyance of the
training from the masters to the apprentices for centuries and generations.
Indeed hear are unchangeable specific construction principles which provide
integrity in the texture.
Another characteristic of our traditional housing units is to show respect to
“rights” of the neighbouring buildings. Here, each unit was built in a position
as not to obstruct the light and view of the one near to it. This fastidious
urban culture which we have forgotten for a long time had been born within the
framework of the unwritten social and good manner rules which impose not to open
a window towards a neighbour’s inner courtyard or not to direct the gutter pipe
to the neighbouring garden.
The thoughtfulness and affection mentioned above is certainly the product of
the thoughtfulness and understanding of the life of our forefathers. This is a
philosophy, which accepts the worldly life, not a goal but a means; and makes
the assumption that one is in a kind of exam in this worldly life. Hence, our
forefathers honoured any caller to their house as a “God sent” guest and shared
their daily bread with him. Similarly they shared their “panorama” with his
neighbours. Now, coming to the Yörük Village housing units and their layout
plan, we can see all the characteristics mentioned above.
Yörük houses generally have second and even third floors. Furthermore, one
can see a more elaborate craftsmanship in their construction. This is because
houses have different sections, which allow different activities of the daily
life. Hence, due to the differentiation of functions there emerge specific
spaces such as “main room”, “bread room”, etc.. Houses in Yörük Village, with
their dimensions, impressive appearances and specific spaces give the impression
of urban houses rather than the rural ones.
As an additional advantage, they have not been “modernised” and/or “renewed”
in the past. In fact, it can be said that these houses have been “aged” only due
to the natural factors. This is the very reason, which makes Yörük Village
different from its counterparts.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE FLOORS AND THEIR FUNCTIONS IN YÖRÜK VILLAGE
As it is known, there is a differentiation between the ground floor and upper
floors in our traditional houses. Except the single storey housing units, nearly
in all the samples the ground floor comprise such spaces as a stone paved open
hall (vestibule / “Hayat” or “Taşlık”), kitchen depot and stable (cow shed). The
majority of the traditional houses has been built on the plots, which have been
bordered by the streets developed in conformity with the natural characteristics
of the landform. As a result of this, the spaces in ground floors differ from
one house to the other.
The places whose planning characteristics are stable in many of our
traditional houses are in the upper floors. These spaces include rooms, halls
and lobbies (“Sofa’s”) in which the daily life is spent. At this point we can
say that upper floors of the traditional housing units of the Yörük Village have
been planned according to the necessities arisen from the historical lifestyle
of our people who have a common culture.
In general, it can be said that housing units of Yörük Village have been
understood that they take part in the daily life in the house at different hours
of the day in different seasons of the year as open, semi-open and closed
sections, materialised as developed buildings constituting of various spaces
suitable to serve for different daily activities.
STRUCRUAL SYSTEM AND BUILDING MATERIALS OF YÖRÜK VILLAGE HOUSES
When the houses in the region are examined, it is seen that they have been
built on a stone wall (with structural property) by timber framed technique.
This technique is called “yeğdane” locally.
The foundation walls of Yörük Village buildings are made of rubble stones and
their width are between 100-150 cm. As it is mentioned above these walls are
built up to the ground floor level. The binding element is generally the mud
plaster. The stone walls built from the foundation level support the floors
built with posts. The Surface of the walls of the ground floors built of stone,
are usually left without plaster. The width of such walls is between 55-80 cm.
The stones used to build these walls are chalk-base ones taken from either
nearby quarries or collected from streambeds. However, in some elaborate
buildings the corner stones have been carved. In a number of village houses, on
ground floors, one of the side of the courtyard is made of posts and wooden
lattice work, thus it has a light and semi transparent structure.
In all the traditional houses in the village, the upper floors are built by
the timber-framed system. This system consists of upright posts, horizontal
beams placed on the bottoms and tops of such posts, and braces (also timber) at
the corners of the building.
The post elements, which are made of fir or yellow pine, are two types in
many houses as the bay-post (“main”) and stud (“secondary” ones). Their interval
varies according to the filling material (mud-brick, stone) used in the walls.
The posts placed on the edges of the windows are called “omuz” (shoulder)
locally. In the adobe filled walls, the distances between the main and secondary
posts are 130-150 cm. and 30-45 cm. respectively. In the stone filled walls
however, the intervals between the posts is 20-25 cm.
The section of bay posts is 12x12 cm; 14x11 cm. or 15x15 cm. Some rare ones
may be 20x20 cm. The section of studs is 10x10 cm. and 12x12 cm. The more the
intervals between the posts the bigger the sections of the posts the bigger the
sections of the posts. In some buildings there are lateral elements between the
posts, called collar ties. In these types of constructions, posts rests on ridge
plates and girders, which are fixed on the stone masonry foundations. Ridge
plates differ as upper ridge plate and bottom ridge plate according to their
location of timber skeleton system, which they belong to. Those ridge plates are
fixed to each other with joining connections in a half-and-half fashion.
Generally girders which are in 20x25 cm. or 25x25 cm. sections are placed into
the system towards the same direction. Intervals between girders which can be
observed from façade of the buildings are filled with stone pieces, if they are
not covered with frame boards.
An important element of the timber-framed construction system is the brace
(wall hold). In general these elements are included in the system with 30° and
40° inclinations to support the bay-posts on the corners of the building. The
cross section of such elements is 12x9 cm.; they are placed in such a manner
that their upper and joins are a little higher than the center of the corner
post, it contacts the stud near by the window, then reaches the base. The timber
frame members and also braces are bind to the system with nails. Although there
are notches on the bottom ridge plates for connection with braces, in general we
can say that no tenon technique other similar joining detail is used in the
In order to form the projections of the houses in Yörük Village, three
different types of construction techniques are used. The cantilevered
projections; These are build in such a manner that the load bearing girders
belonging to the upper floors are cantilevered, 60-100 cm. from the buildings
facades at the end point of the cantilevered projections, there are ridge
plates, which carry the posts of the upper structure. In some examples girder
elements are supported with a second beam. Projections supported with brackets;
In this special building technique to prevent the bending of beams of the
projections, the timber bracket elements lean on timber bands of the walls or
grooves on the surface of the lower flat. Corbelling projection; this is a
solution for reducing the size of timber girders by setting beams in two
directions as one on top of the other and step by step.
The walls of houses which have a timber framed skeleton type of construction
are formed by infilling the intervals of posts with materials like stone,
mud-brick etc.. Some of these walls with stone infill are left without
plastering. However, most of the buildings are plastered with a special “sandık
harcı” (box plaster) containg of hair, straw and fur piceous. Except of these it
is ascertained that some of the building walls are provided by “bağdadi”
technique, which means by nailing laths to the two sides of the posts in
horizontal directions and plastering. Although this type of plastering is used
on the concave borders of ceilings which are the transition sections with walls
of the rooms.
Boarding with timber planks of room floors is the common building technique
of Yörük Village houses. In this type of boarding technique there is no rebate
or overlapping astragal. All the planks are nailed side by side. Usually ceiling
planks are fixed on to the beams diagonally or horizontally due to decorative
purposes. The door wings and window sashes are hang, to the frames with
traditional type of hinges.
Roof constructions of Yörük Village houses are out of timber and gable roofs,
pitched roofs and hipped roofs are the common types in this village. Loads of
roof structures are supported by timber post elements, which are rests on the
ceiling beams of top floors and walls. Generally beams of roof structures are
ends at the outer edge of the surface walls. Purlins which supports ridge beams
are placed on the walls. According to the roof constructions ridge beams may be
seen in horizontal or sloppy conditions. Roof posts have no collars or struts.
Usually, rafters are rests on from the ridge beams to purlins. On the top of the
rafters which are situated parallel to roof slope there are binding rafters
also. Timber planks are nailed along the hall surfaces of roofs and covered with
Turkish tiles. Eves surrounding the houses are shaped by beams or/and rafters
which are projected from the surface of the buildings.
Painted ornaments in houses can be found generally in the main rooms.
However, in some houses they can be seen in the “sofa” halls also. Such
ornaments have been painted usually on the plastered walls, in niches, and on
the ceiling cornices.
Today, in works regarding either individual buildings or a whole section of a
town, a healthy harmony between the natural environment and the human one is
sought besides the aesthetic beauty. In reality, the habitation culture of the
Ottoman Period to which we are the inheritors has achieved this synthesis within
the means of its times. Yörük Village, which is the last representative of this
lifestyle with its unchanged settlement texture and its traditional houses.
Hence the houses try to convey us silently the design concept whose main element
is the human being. The prevailing architectural and settlement planning
characteristics such as relationships among streets-houses-neighbouring house;
formation of streets; community concept; plot dimensions; densities, all are the
products of both healthy and aesthetic design concept which is contemporary as
well. The settlement texture as a whole, with its dynamism; balance; rhythm;
colour; tone; and other similar aesthetic values, represents a nearly ideal
In summary, Yörük Village with its architectural and cultural heritage should
immediately be taken under protection. On this point, besides the registration
procedures a development plan with the aim of protection should also be prepared
Doç. Dr. Can M.HERSEK
G.Ü.Engineering and Architecture Faculty, Assoc. Prof. Dr.
Y.Mimar Şakir MERAKİ
G.Ü.Engineering and Architecture Faculty, M.A.