The Use of Timber Material in the Houses of Erzurum and Konya

Wooden Houses of Anatolia

The Use of Timber Material in the Houses of Erzurum and Konya


The traditional houses of Erzurum and Konya are the buildings in which, as main building material, stone in the former and mudbrick in the latter are dominant. In this paper, in the traditional old houses of these cities the characteristics of timber material, such as the types, the application positions, the techniques, the decorations and the aesthetics, are dealt with. It is put forward that timber was used and decorated in the interior architecture of the houses of both cities.

The subject of this paper is the use of timber material in the houses of Erzurum and Konya which are the two examples of the traditional Turkish Houses in Anatolia. Erzurum and Konya are the two important cities of history, culture and art in Turkey. The Turkish houses in both cities are the important examples possessing the rich heritage of Turkish housing architecture of either Anatolia or pre-Anatolia Period.

In the formation of Anatolian Turkish house, besides historical, social, cultural and economic factors, geography and building material are also the important factors. Among the building materials, timber which is supplied from Nature, has got an important range of usage in Turkish Architecture. It is known that timber, starting from the houses of Uygur, was used enjoyably especially in the civil and religious buildings of Karahanlı, Gazneli and Seljukian Period. That timber desire in the Central Asia was transferred to Anatolia and the monumental mosques built timber posts were constructed.

Today, in Turkey, the forest areas have lessened very much. The historical sources prove that there were vast forest areas in the close vicinity of Erzurum and Konya in the past; and the timber materials of old houses of old houses were supplied from these areas. At present, however, Turkey has got very little forest area in certain regions. The closest forests for Erzurum exist at Sarıkamış and also for Konya at Beyşehir and Toros mountains.

Among natural building materials, timber is the easiest one to be supplied, transferred and applied for building. It was used for the structure, the interior spaces and the roofs of buildings comprehensively. Apart from this easiness, timber is a warm-textured material. It charges warmth and provide a positive effect to human senses. This effect became various in Turkish House, and timber being decorated, was brought about the position of an art work. Also, timber was considered to be the symbol of the thought of this world’s mortality, and it was used with this intention considerably:

For example, the plates on which the sayings of “Property belongs to Allah (=the God for Muslims)”, Goods and Property are in vain” are written, were attached on to the doors of old houses. According to the understanding of Muslim Turkish life, house is a temporary home, is in the Hereafter. Therefore, the monumental and everlasting stone buildings have not got any value.


In relation to the climate and the building material sources of the region, the houses of Erzurum composed of the rooms which are placed in a case surrounded by the thick stone walls and an earthen cover. However, the most important element of this structure is timber material.

The Types of Tree (timber):

Pine: It is the timber material which was used the most. Lintels, internal walls and load-bearing joists are built of pine. This material was mostly brought from the Forest of Sarıkamış or Uzundere-Tortum. It is known that in the past pine forest existed in the skirts of Palandöken Hill.

Poplar: It used to have been supplied from the city centre of Erzurum. As load-bearing element, it was used especially for the cover of Pasin on gables.

Willow: It had been taken from the villages close to the city, and was used for the cover as load-bearing material.

The Building Part for Which Timber was Used:

Walls and Lintels: In stone walls timber lintels were used at certain intervals of height. The lintels are long timbers of 5x10 cm. in dimension which were laid into the walls from inside and outside. By connecting both lintels at intervals, the unity of walls were ensured. The position of lintels were arranged according to the position of door and windows.

Beams and Floors: In general, timber beams are of pine and rectangular or circular section. By extending the ends of these beams (joists) to the façade, required projections could be built. The floor timber boards were nailed on to these joists.

Cover (roof) and Ceilings: The spaces with different functions in Erzurum houses were covered with different techniques. The cover composed of load-bearing beams (foists) and earth may be divided into three in terms of cover form: Flat, Swallow and Pasin.

Flat Cover: The beams in circular section are produced from pine and poplar trees of 20-25 cm. in diameter. On top of these beams, willow branches and reeds, and on of these, also watery earth are laid, and then hammered.

The covers of lattern and Pasin will be explained in the timber building techniques.

Ceilings: The ceilings would be classified according to the building techniques, as follows.

Upside-down Ceiling: It is a ceiling type to which timber board is not nailed.

Flat Ceiling: This is the ceiling to which timber board are nailed.

Vat Ceiling: It is the ceiling on which there are timber ornaments and its sides are dropped over the walls.

Opening (Doors and windows): The doors, windows, their borders and wings, the fixed wardrobes (for bedding) in the rooms are the parts where timber material was used intensively.


Projections: On the façade, storey or square projections, which is constructed by extending the ends of load-bearing joists towards outside, interval room (sofa) projections are characteristics for Erzurum.

On some buildings the ends of these joists were left open and given an aesthetic appearance to the projection by profiling them. However the ends of some other buildings were covered with timber boards.

In terms of timber use, the lattices put on doors, the floor cornices and window lattices adds aesthetic value to the façade.

Eaves: The timber eaves were formed by coating the joist ends of the upper coves with timber boards on which decorated figures were added.

Chimneys: In Erzurum houses, there are also the examples of chimney stacks built of timber which finish the facade on the upper cover (roof).

Joists: The joist (called as “kont”) is the extension of timber beams projected from the facades on Erzurum Houses. On top of them, timber boards were put to erect scaffolding easily in order to care the facade, and also to the rope for drying vegetables.

Timber Building Techniques: In Erzurum Houses apart from flat cover there are two important cover techniques peculiar to the region.

Lantern: It is an overlapping cover technique which has been used widely in Erzurum to cover bake-house space having a lightening hole in the middle. It is formed with square and octagonal overlapping timbers.

Pasin Cover: It is a cover technique having an entirely timber construction used for the barns. It is a cover with two sloped sides, and has a lightening hole in the middle.

In both techniques a thick earth layer were laid on these timber covers.

Timber Decoration Techniques:

Timber Engraving: As could be seen in Turkish House in general, various timber engraving techniques were applied in Erzurum Houses, as follows:

The Technique of Deep Timber Engraving:

The Drilled (Ajur) Technique

Lattice Technique: These are the decorations of timber lattice applied for the doors and windows.

Nailed Decoration: The nailed decoration which an old decoration technique, is seen on the wings of doors and fixed wardrobes.

Painted Decoration: This a decoration technique which reflect the style characteristics of then period, was applied on to the timber flower beds and ceilings of some rooms.

Timber and Aesthetics: As summarised briefly above, it is seen that the timber use in Erzurum Houses had an arm of aesthetics apart from their function in terms of either from their function in terms of either the interior space or the facade. In order to ensure this, a great deal of space designs and decorations techniques were introduced.

The techniques applied for decoration and the motifs formed the composition are suited to the decoration method of Turkish. House and also reflect the style characteristics of then period. Within the compositions and motifs there are also the examples possessing the local characteristics.


As was in Erzurum Houses, timber material was also used in Konya Houses for the construction of load bearing structure and interior spaces. In Konya Houses with mudbrick walls and flat earth cover (roof), timber was used as second natural building material.

The Types of Tree: The most used tree types are tar, pine, oak and poplar.

Tar: It is a strong tree, which was supplied from Tauruses and used for the load-bearing beams of the houses.

Pine: The tree, which was supplied from Beyşehir and Tauruses, was used for the beams and the openings of the houses.

Poplar: This tree, which was supplied from the plain of Konya and its close villages, was used for either load-bearing or boarding.

Apart from these types of tree, also the other types of tree were used, such as cedar, juniper and fir.

The Building Parts for which Timber was used:

Load-bearing and Lintels: Timber was used for the framework which carries the upper cover, and for the lintels in the mudbrick walls.

Beams and Floors: The types of tree, such as juniper and poplar in a circular section were used for the floors and the beams of upper cover.

Cover (roof) and Ceilings: Two types of cover were used on the houses of Konya: Rough cover with ceiling.

Black (Rough) Cover: This cover has timber beams without any ceiling boards, and on top of the beams there is a rush mat visible from the down. Instead of the rush maths timber boards were used in some houses. The beam surfaces of some houses were painted with oiled paint.

Cover with Ceiling: With regard to this cover, the bottom sides of the beams were covered with timber ceiling boards. The examples of boarded ceiling with very rich decoration could be seen among these houses.

Openings (doors and windows): The timber material was used in the interior architecture of Konya Houses very intensively. Timber was used very richly for open cupboards (for glasses), the fixed wardrobes (for bedding), the big chests (for clothes) in the interval spaces and other rooms. This timber use makes one to forget that the outer shell of the buildings are built of mudbrick.

Facade: The timber material on the facades of Konya Houses was used for the doors, windows, window lattices and eaves. By the effect of European Architecture in the ends of 19.C., the houses with timber projection, timber eaves and living lofts (called as roof pavilion).

Timber Building Techniques:

Cover (roof) and Internal Walls: In Konya and its close vicinity, rich timber techniques dated back to Seljukian Period, were used. The most important one of these techniques of flat earthen cover. This classical cover technique is made, as following; rush mat (kındıra rush), tree branches called “pardı” and dried grass are placed on the timber beams, and over them specially prepared watery earth is laid down.

Sometimes with an aim of thermal isolation, straw added earth is placed within the ceiling and the upper cover.

In the internal spaces spaces besides hımış walls (which is a timber-framed wall in filled with mudbricks), lath-and-plaster walls were also used.

Timber Decoration Techniques:

Timber Engraving: Door wings, flower beds, open cupboards, fixed wardrobes were decorated with this technique. The ceilings of Konya Houses have the cores symbolising the sun, such as the stars with eight, ten, twelve arms, passion-flower (çarkıfelek) and lettuce (fırfır) formas.

With this technique, plant, geometric motifs and borders were materialised.

Nailed Decoration: This technique was applied to flower beds, ceiling and the wings of fixed wardrobes.

Embroidery-Penciling Decoration: This technique was applied to timber surfaces of walls and lath-and-plastered ceilings in some houses.

Timber and Aesthetics: The techniques of timber building and decoration which reflect the traditional Seljukian works, also in Konya Houses has given spacious feelings and esthetical values to their interiors. An entire timber appearance are provided with the flower beds, open cupboards, large chests (for clothes) and the ceilings.


As mentioned in the part of introduction, it is known that the houses of Erzurum and Konya are the buildings on which stone and mudbrick materials dominate externally. However, when the houses of both cities are examined closely, it could be seen that timber materials was used richly in the interior and exterior architecture of both houses. Especially in the interior architecture, the stone and mudbrick effects in their facades have been vanished. Such an effective use of timber should be related to the world understanding of Turkish society.

Because of disasters like earthquakes, big fires occurred in both cities in the past, very old examples of housing architecture of timber built could not survive until present day. The old examples survived until today and the present literature sources show that in terms of timber building and decoration techniques, these houses could be paralled with religious buildings.

In terms of interior space design, furnishing and decoration in the houses of both cities, timber has got an important role. Especially in terms of timber decoration in Erzurum Houses, the richness of timber engraved ceilings in an umbrella form pays attention.

Although various scientific investigations on the subjects related to the houses of both cities have been carried out, it could be stated that a through investigation and publication have not been fulfilled. It is also known that the houses of both cities could not have been protected adequately and their urban textures have been destroyed. The facts have been observed that also the listings of individual building carried out have not been sufficient for their protection, and that gradually the old houses in and on which timber was used carefully have been vanishing. That is why, especially the timber material used in and on these houses should be investigated in detail and protected, in terms of material, type, technique and decoration.

Selçuk University, Faculty of Applied Sciences-Literature