Traditional Göynük Houses and Conservation Issues

Wooden Houses of Anatolia

Traditional Göynük Houses and Conservation Issues


A small district within the Bolu Province, Göynük is a town of valleys that has largely maintained its traditional fabric characteristics. The centrum of Göynük, which has almost completely been ranked as a “historical site”, is situated in a mountainous area, on the slopes and feet of two valleys bifurcated toward the north and northeast. The Beybahçesi-Gobaylar-Brook flows by the middle of the eastern valley, while the Göynük Brook does in the western, and both do merge at the town centre to heave under their new name “Göynük Suyu” (the Göynük Stream). Between the valleys bearing the names of the brooks respectively, there is the Hisar Hill which nearly divides the town in two.

A station of supply and accommodation during the Ottoman Era, and located on the Baghdad Route, Göynük entered the Turkish reign as from the end of the 13th century.


The traditional houses constituting the quarters which have spontaneously developed around a mosque for the absence of any ethnic differences, form two distinct categories by architecture and period they were built in:

a- Traditional houses built in the 19th Century, and by the beginning of the 20th .

b- Houses with the traditional structure and plan scheme, although they were built between the years 1030-1970.

The position and architectural characters of a Göynük house within the plot are determined above all by the topography, landscape, and climate. The fact that the slope of the land from the skirts toward the brooks are town-wide in line with the landscape allowed the houses to be both parellel to the slope, and facing the landscape. The average land slope which varies between 5 to 10% on the valley floors, banks of brooks, and the plains where the valleys merge into each other, is around 25-30% on the sides of the valleys,

The traditional houses were usually built in split order. One, two or three faces of the houses built in split order are placed on the placed on the kplot’s border so that they determine the street formation line, along with their garden walls, there are also examples where the building is wholly enclosed by the garden Further to the split order, there are also occasional houses build in attached or quasi-attached order.

The traditional fabric consists of two-storey, two-storey-plus-mezzanine, two-storey-plus-subbasement, and two-storey-plus-attic houses, Also, the number of three-storey houses in not a few, in residences on the slopes, the differences between the level of the residence’s front garden, and the one of the street or slope on the highest point of the plot is so big that it sometimes giverise to one, one and a half, or even two storeys. Due to such multi-choice and somewhat complex development which is a result of the topography, it would be more proper that the storeys are called, sequentially the “main living floor”, and the “garden floor” in the two storey ones.


The garden floors of Göynük houses which were designed in the past to accommadate large, patriarchal families are completely assigned for services and productional activities. The main entrance gate of the house is on this floor. All or some of the spaces such as hayat, stable, hay storage, woodshed, granary, cellar, and sometimes oven house-fırın evi-may also be situated on this floor, or as well as in the garden. The external contours of such spaces are often in conformity with the ones of the upper floors, if the buildings don’t rest on the land stepwise. Having no definite plan scheme, such floors consist of carrying walls and wooden posts that are designed to allow the layout of the upper next floor. The garden-floor plans of the traditional-sort houses built between 1930 and 1970 were however designed to be in a similar layout as the upper floors, and the stable and hay storage spaces replaced by bathroom and kitchen spaces.

In some houses, a low mezzanine floor was placed on a part of the garden floor. Generally consisting of one or two rooms, this floor may sometimes contain spaces such as the granary, kitchen or cellar.

If on the level of the street or avenue, the middle floor is used as the entry floor. The hayat into which the entrance gate is opened out, hall-çardak-, rooms and sometimes the kitchen are situated in the middle floor. The daily life used to be spent in this floor in the past, while the “main living floor” was allotted to the married children.

If there is no middle floor, the “main living floor” is the one where the daily life happens, and the quests are entertained. The hall-çardak-, summer and winter rooms, stairs, toilet spaces, and sometimes the kitchen, and the cellar are sometimes oriented toward the landscape, street, and garden, under a rational layout.

The middle floor and the “main living floor” plans giving the plan characteristics of the houses have a similar layout. In general, layouts involving inner halls were applied. Layouts containing central halls and corner halls although rarely, also encountered, the hall, or the regionally so-called çardak, was designed as a space close to the external effects in all houses. Narrow side of the hall was seated centrally to the side of the house having the view of the landscape, and the rooms and other spaces places on the longer sides or corners of the hall. The rooms have different names according to their location an uses within the house. According to location, the rooms over looking the landscape are called the front rooms, the ones to the valley the back rooms; and winter rooms. The summer room-yazlık oda, or again as called regionally the yazevi-summerhouse-is the room opening out to the landscape, garden, or street, usually with its two sides. More attention and care was spent in the making of its ceiling, closets, and cupboards, and the quests of the house are entertained in this room. In other words the name of the “main room” is the summer room in the Göynük House. Whereas the winter room is situated at more protected site of the house, and is absolutely provided with a fireplace. The winter room which can be situated on any one of the storeys of the house but the garden floor, is also used as the kitchen if the house has no space assigned as the kitchen.


The front façades looking to the landscape are the façades on which the greatest pains were taken. Heavy-looking due to various reasons, the back and side façades gain importance merely if there is an avenue or a street posteriorly or laterally to the plot they are in, in which case for the purposes of providing communication of the building with the street.

The floor dominating the façade of a traditional house is the “main living floor” opening out through windows and overhangs. The middle floor or mezzanine floor, if any, too contributes to the formation of the façades. On the levels of the “main living floor” and the middle floor, the halls which are located in the middle axis of the façade are marked by their window forms or numbers in some cases, or by their balconies or bay windows in others, which markedness is enhanced by the cantilevered or regular rooms situated at both sides of the hall. The overhangs which usually run in parallel to the building’s surface are located on all the façade along the building, or room-wide in the corners, or hall-wide in the middle of the façade. Some of the overhangs before halls were arranged as balconies. The overhangs were designed as unsupported, console-braced, or bracketed ones. Rectangular sliding windows were used in general. The room windows were usually rectangular, and the hall windows arched. On the front façades of the garden floors consisting of the garden floors consisting of massive stone walls, on the other hand, doors providing access into the house and the stable, as well as the so-called temek deliğis, glassless stable windows or a couple small windows are located. On the “main living floors”, middle floors or mezzanine storeys, the façades are separated vertically by means of the corner borders and intermediate borders placed to the points where the room and hall walls reflect to the façade, and horizontally by means of wooden cornices between flats on the floor levels of such storeys. Except the façades which are plastered first with mud, them lime mortar beginning from the ground, there are also cases where the stone body walls or the timber in –filled frame system is not plastered, or coated with wooden materials. The façades are completed by the Ottoman-style tiled curb roofs or gable roofs, and the Ottoman-style tile-cowled chimney stick.


The houses on a rocky land have unhewn stone foundations which are not too deep. The carrying walls on the garden floors, and one of two of such walls rising to he eave level, as well as the garden and retaing walls are rubble masonry. In the construction of such walls the lightweight, porous, and light-to process stones called köfke were used, which stones were brought from the caves on the Buzluk Hill situated northeast to the town. There are also some instances where stones obtained from the rocky areas and brook banks around were used. Lime mortar was used as the binder in the 60 to 90 cm-thick stone walls and the strength of such walls was reinforced by means of wooden beams applied in 80 to 90 cm intervals. Placed along the walls onto the inner and outer surfaces thereof, such beams of 10/10 or 12/12 cm sections were made of oak or pine woods.

All the walls of the “main living floor”, the mezzanine storey, and the middle floor were built in the system of timber frames, except for the main walls with the fireplaces. For the timber frame system, the sleeper on which the timber framework placed on the main stone walls would be seated was prepared above all on the level where the garden floor terminated. The floor joists of the “main living floor” which were placed in 40 to 50 cm intervals in parallel to the shorter side of the house were seated of thicker-sectioned main joists running parallel to both such beams and to themselves. Having sections of 20/20 or 22/22 cm in average, and being seated onto the wooden posts or stone walls on the garden floor, these main joists are called hepçeken in the region. A second sleeper placed on top of the heads of the 16/16 or 18/18 cm sectioned floor joists were placed the main and intermediate studs. The main study were made in sections of 10/10, 12/12 or 14/14 cm. having been tied to each other by means of braces at the bottom and top levels of the windows, and supported with brockets at places, the main studs are surrounded by the upper sleepers at the ceiling level. The ceiling joists and roof rafters are seated onto such upper sleepers. It is seen that, in old historical houses, the timber-framed outer walls are 15 cm thick, while the inner ones about 10 to 12 cm. the thickness of the timber-framed walls in the houses built during the later period varies between 16 and 19 cm. In such walls the spaces between the wooden studs were filled with stones in some cases, or with mud bricks, or circular-sectioned wooden filling which provides the best binding with the wooden structure was preferred more due to its less cost. All the wooden material used in both the frame and the fillings is pine. Especially the sleepers, joists, and studs were made of hearted pine.

Beneath the lime mortar plaster of the stone walls and the timber-framed ones, another plaster is found which was made of mud mortar containing strow. In the newer houses, it is seen that laths were nailed on the wooden-filled walls in skewed position, and the mud and lime-mortared plasters were applied on such laths.

Simple overhangs and bracketed or console-braced overhangs were applied in the Göynük houses. The simple overhang is a type of overhang obtained by extending the floor joists out of the house. The overhang depth can only be 40 to 50 cm. For the bracketed and console-braced ones, on the other hand, the depth is more, and the section of the protruding floor joists is less. The spaces under the overhang are not enclosed in the Göynük houses.


Although the “historical –centrum” of Göynük was adversely influenced by the master plan partially applied in 1951, and the traditional fabric survived that destruction was not corrupted much until the 80’s. The facts that the transportation to the towna is difficult, the new houses are built of wooden materials, and employing the traditional system, and the commitment of the inhabitants of Göynük to the concept of “preservation” have al led to the maintenance of the traditional fabric. However, as the town which had been classified as a “forest village” for long years was declassified, no low-cost timber could be obtained, and reinforced-concrete residences have begun to be built instead of the traditional. Besides, the variations in the social and economic structure, earthquakes, fires, floods, renewed master plans and prevention decrees, lack of supervision of the reparations performed, increase in the unlicensed constructions, the local governments’ non-observance of the “preservation-based master plan” in force, and the lack of any technical personnel in the town involving “preservation” are reasons that accelerate the destruction of the town.


In order that the traditional fabric of the town can be preserverved, above all, the characteristic streets of the town which are of a scale for pedestrian traffic must be managed to get rid of the vehicles, and the unlicensed construction of buildings on the shope apaxes be prevented.

Despite the application of the universal preservation methods to protect the cultural heritage in our country, the old buildings lose their historical evidences during the restoration applications, and do often almost change their identity. Such applications are true with Göynük too. Having particularly accelerated following the “preservation-based master plan” dated 1991, the reparation work of older buildings have led to the destruction of major characteristic houses. Therefore, the main aspects to be observed in any reparations are listed below.

- The Municipality must provide that no reparation be ever performed on buildings requiring maintenance.

- The reparations must only be performed upon approval of the Ankara committee of Cultural and Natural Properties.

- As the survey, restitution, and restoration projects of registered buildings require special expertise, they must be prepared by restoration architects only. And it must be those who prepared the project who are the actual authorised and responsible people of the work during the application phase. If no restoration architect is available or the needed funds cannot be obtained, then the help must be sought from the universities.

- The Preservation Committees must be provided with sufficient number of technical staff, and supervise the “repair” applications, and the people who intend to repair their houses must be guided about the formalities required and possibilities available.

- Authentic materials must be used as far as possible in buildings requiring “reparation”, or, if the authentic materials are too old that to be used, or not available, then the missing parts must be completed using the same sort of materials, must be indicated that they are new additions.

- If he building offers the risk of collapsing, then measures must be taken to reinforce the structure, without demolishing the building, and reinforced concrete and steel constructions be used if need be, provided that they are invisible on the external façade.

- Pains must be taken to any details that seem unimportant particularly in reparation of the external façades. Details such as the location and width of the flat and window cornices on the façade, the starting and ending points, and widths of the corner and intermediate borders, quality of the ground floor stone wall system, ect. Must be made as their original.

- Nothing must be used but the lime mortar during the reparation, and the mortars prepared with cement must absolutely be avoided.

Dr. Ayten ERDEM
YTÜ, Faculty of Architecture, Dr.