Wednesday, May 11, 2011

vernacular iraqi housing

Courtyard style house, with all program around open courtyard

       In our tour of Basra, our hosts offered to show us their grandparents' house. When they mentioned that it was of original Iraqi design, I jumped on the opportunity.

      With fine attention to culture and climate, vernacular Iraqi housing was more common before the British entered the country in the 20s. The house is based around an open courtyard, which mitigates extreme heat known to the country in the summer months.  The courtyard also provides a place for women and children to live in privacy. 

Living room upon main entry
     The house begins at a bent entrance, traditionally reserved for male guests who are not supposed to watch the female inhabitants live. The bent entrance leads to a courtyard, which has for many centuries, been the dominant element in the plan of the Iraqi house.  Excavations at Ur have shown similar courtyard houses dating back to 2,000 BC.

Outdoor kitchen

Stacked horizontal circulation

View from first floor down to courtyard

      Socially, the courtyard has met the need for private and secluded open space for family activities. This is dictated by religious-social criteria. 
      The courtyard is spatially the focal point of the home. It is the general and central space that every moment in the houses passes through, begins, and ends.  This space reduces circulation space within the house. This space also provides a place for children to play and be watched by their mother.

Column to roof detail

        Check out the timber studs too. The tree trunks span between walls to which timber boards are nailed, and two layers of woven reed mats are laid, followed by a layer of earth and finished with brick paving. The ceiling is made up of long timber boards with timber trims covering the butt joints. 

Interior of 1 of 17 rooms

     The roof is constructed the same way, but rather than earth layer there are two layers of a mud and straw mixture. 
       The roof is finished with brick paving or locally-produced cement tiles known as Kashi. 

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