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.
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
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.
THE USE OF TIMBER MATERIAL IN THE HOUSES OF ERZURUM
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
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
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
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.
THE USE OF TİMBER MATERIAL IN THE HOUSES OF KONYA
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
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.
EVALUATIONS AND CONCLUSION
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