The land that carries the legacy of different eras, Turkey, showcases architecture influenced by Byzantine, Ottoman, and Seljuk architecture. Changes in the contemporary architecture of the country are observed because of international transformations and political and social developments. The architecture of Turkey can be described as a consequence of many different periods of the republic. Turkey-one of the earliest permanently settled regions in the world is a country located partly in Asia and partly in Europe, acting both as a barrier and a bridge between the two continents. This emerging country has a strategic geopolitical location and regional power. The land, influenced by various people who inhabited its territory over centuries, carries rich cultural legacies. Currently home to 19 UNESCO world heritage sites, Turkey is one of the most visited countries in the world.  

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The Blue Mosque_©72hoursInIstanbul
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Galata tower_©propertyTurkey

Although Turkey is most famous for its churches, Medrese, tomb monuments, and domed mosques, the vernacular housing in the country has an equally prolific history. Starting with basic and primitive dwellings, such as tents, the vernacular architecture of Turkey became more settled with the rise of the empire as the peripatetic lifestyle changed. Turkish architecture peaked during the Ottoman period with the Turkish Neoclassical Architecture Movement (also known as the First National Architectural Movement). However, architecture started to change after the 1930s due to the rise of foreign architects. By the time of the Second National Architectural Movement (during World War II), the planners aimed to create modern yet nationalistic architecture. 

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Ulu Cami (The Great Mosque), Bursa, Example of Neoclassical architecture_©TrekEarth
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Gazi Institute of Education, Example of post-Neoclassical architecture (after 1930)_©Wikimedia
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Canakkale Martyrs Memorial, Example of Second National Architectural Movement (during WWII)_©TurkishWikipedia

Turkey is one of the countries that have an array of traditional housing cultures that have developed with their unique characteristics. The architecture differs from different regional features and the surrounding environment. The factors affecting the form of the dwelling include climate, geographical location, social and urban structure, spatial organization, and available materials. The houses were designed considering the natural topography and climatic conditions. They were designed to fortify the surroundings rather than dominate them. 

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City of Safranbolu, North Turkey (houses merging with the topography)_©Dailysabah
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Typical Ottoman housing (houses merging with the topography)_©planetware

The Ottomans believed in building practical houses and that there was no waste of resources. They found a large house to be ostentatious. The houses they built were simple in construction. All the elements of the house are not just functional but also have philosophical and symbolic meanings. 

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Typical Anatolian house using Timber and Masonry _©Dailysabah

Planning and layout

Turkish vernacular houses are not settled on a grid plan, unlike in other countries. The streets were constructed upon building the houses. The human scale and the climate determined The sizes of the streets. For example, the streets in hot and rainy regions are narrow and are generally protected. The houses respected each other’s privacy and did not block the view, wind, or sun from each other

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Unplanned streets around houses_©Mark Will
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Unplanned streets around houses_©Haley Blackall

Privacy is the most prominent factor in shaping the architecture of a typical Turkish house. Since Turkish people live in traditional extended family orders, the design incorporates the use of multipurpose halls, yards, and open corridors. The houses are built introvertedly, meaning the ground floor showcases mostly the garden walls or services, while private or family rooms are on the upper floors. The houses are open to expansion and development as they are adaptable per family requirements. The addition of new rooms is possible while the family expands, or the rooms or house itself can be divided if required. 

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Layout of a typical Turkish house (adapted from Ucar)_©researchgate

The design of a Turkish house is minimalist, sustainable, and rationalist, and it includes many principles of modernism. They are not only functional but also reflect life philosophy, design, and technology. 

The houses are provided with both “open-cool” and “closed-well-protected” spaces. They are designed according to different seasonal requirements. For example, an open-cool summer room is a space that remains relatively cool during summer. It is achieved by placing the room in a direction where open-air flows, the walls, and floors are made of thinner materials, and the room has wide and large windows. On the contrary, a closed-well-protected room is situated between the middle floors and is generally protected from direct airflow, has thicker and non-permeable walls, and comparatively smaller windows to provide warmth during cold climatic conditions. 

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Interior of a typical Turkish house_©Tripadvisor
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Interior of a typical Turkish house_© Masterfile

Builders provided detailed solutions to adverse natural and climatic conditions with the strategic use of local materials. An example of such incorporation would be the chimney of a Mugla house. The house resides on the Eastern Black Sea, a place with the highest rainfall. To cope with the effects of abruptly changing winds and heavy rainfall the chimney of the house was made 180 cm tall. The roof timbers protected the external walls. And local materials were used to detail the structural elements like doors, windows, staircases, cabinets, etc. 

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Chimney of a Mugla house_© Dreamstime

The rooms of the house played an important part in the development of the interiors, as the people in Turkey lived in extended families. The rooms were generally called Sofa, Hayat, and Eyvan. Sofa and Hayat are multipurpose halls between rooms, and Eyvan is the semi-open space between rooms. Generally, houses are shaped around the “rooms” and are their main components. Since the rooms are multipurpose spaces, it is believed that the concept was derived from tents (the first living settlement for Turkish people). They generally perform common functions like eating, living, working, sleeping, etc. 

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Plan of the house revolving around Sofa_© researchgate

The expansion of the house is based around the rooms. The size of the room determines the size of the house. While the room sizes are determined by the materials available. The houses can vary through different materials, but the main component is always the room. 

Materials and Construction

Turkish vernacular houses mostly use standardized materials in construction, and the modulation depends on the use of space, openings (doors and windows), and other details. One can observe modulation and standardization in Turkish vernacular houses due to the use of constraint construction materials, yet they differ from each other in terms of plans and details. 

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Turkish house using local material Timber_©Flickr
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Turkish house using Masonry_©turkeyhouse

Climatic conditions and the surrounding environment determine the use of the material. The most commonly used construction materials were wood and stone, and the type of wood and stone differed according to the region. Based on materials used for construction in different regions, housing can be divided into two types: timber-framed houses and masonry houses.  

Timber-framed houses 

This is the most characteristic type of Turkish vernacular housing. The houses are generally 2-3 stories high. Masonry or wooden pillared structures are used on the ground floor level, while the upper floors use wooden frames. The filling materials differ across regions, varying from local materials like Adobe, clay, brick, stone, earth, etc. These houses are typically found near coastal areas and some inner regions of Turkey. 

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Typical Timber house near Eastern Black Sea_©propertyguides

Masonry houses: 

These houses are generally 2-3 stories high. The primary construction material is stone. Some houses show the use of wood for decorative purposes on roofs and openings. They generally include courtyards, atriums, cloisters, or similar open and semi-open spaces. 

The southern east regions/Anatolia region showcases the use of ashlar walls or cut-stone wall coverings in construction. The houses here mostly have flat roofs and terraces.

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Typical Anatolian house_©turkeyhomes

In the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, houses are made with rubble walls and mortar. They generally have flat roofs or hipped roofs. Some of the houses include wooden orioles. 

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Typical Aegean/ Mediterranean house_©propertyguides

In the eastern regions of Turkey, the houses mostly have flat roofs and are made with rubble walls with mortar and wooden beams. The regions near the Taurus mountains showcase wooden beams and rubble walls with mortar. The construction is done using dry masonry. 

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Typical house near Taurus Mountains_©Dreamstime

Most Turkish vernacular houses are designed to be in harmony with the climate, topography, and environment. They are designed with sustainable methods and have developed and evolved as cultural, social, and environmental needs over time.   

Beehive dome vernacular houses of Harran: 

Apart from the typical timber or masonry houses, Turkey also has a specific “Beehive Dome vernacular house”. They are generally found in Harran—a plain southeast town in Turkey located between the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris. This particular building form is not seen in any other parts of Turkey.

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Beehive Dome house of Harran_©happyfrogtravels

The Harran houses can be made rapidly like tents. The primary material used in construction is Adobe (burnt/sun-dried shallow bricks). These houses are famous amongst users for their interiors that are cool in summer and warm in winter. 

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Beehive Dome house of Harran_©turkishtravelblogs

The thick mud walls of the house trap the cool air and keep the sun out. They have only a few openings to minimize the glare of the sun and the movement of hot and cold air throughout the day and night. The high domes collect the hot air, keeping it away from the ground floor and thus helping to keep the interiors cool. The floors of the houses are slightly high above the soil outside.  

Beehive Dome house of Harran_©internationaltravelnews

These houses have been designed to resist the strong winds and minor shocks from frequent earthquakes.

References: 2022. Architecture of Turkey – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 October 2022].

Sansal, B., 2022. Turkish Architecture | All About Turkey. [online] Available at: <,in%20search%20of%20new%20ideas.> [Accessed 8 October 2022].

RTF | Rethinking The Future. 2022. An overview of Turkish Architecture. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 October 2022].

  1. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 October 2022].

özdeniz, M., Bekleyen, A., Gönül, I., Gönül, H., Sarigül, H., Ilter, T., Dalkiliç, N. and Yildirim, M., 2022. Vernacular domed houses of Harran, Turkey. 2022. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 October 2022].

  1. [online] Available at: <>pdf> [Accessed 8 October 2022].

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