Timber frame system after the western influence on the houses of Istanbul

Ergün S. F.

Eight Annual Construction History Society Conference, Cambridge, England, 27 - 28 August 2021, pp.339-346

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Cambridge
  • Country: England
  • Page Numbers: pp.339-346
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


As with any other architectural characteristic of the Turkish house, the structural system was also transformed throughout the years. In accordance with the effects of western styles on residential buildings, special importance was devoted to exterior decoration after the 19th century. The visual meaning of the structural system lost its significance especially in Istanbul because they were enveloped and became non-visible to the users. Gradually, the system became lighter. During the last period of the Ottoman Empire, timber frame without any infill was the preferred construction method for the wooden houses of Istanbul. This system provides the possibility to build light, economic, practical, and speedy solutions. Open areas and windows increased in size and number. Traditional knowledge about the material for ages, easiness of supply, earthquake threats and cultural habits contributed to the intense popularity of the usage of timber structures in residential buildings. Generally, timber frames are erected above a brick masonry basement and/or ground floor. Main load-bearing elements usually have square-alike sections and they were supported by diagonal braces to provide rigidity. Additionally, thinner horizontal and vertical elements are placed at the gaps between load-bearing posts to keep the balance. Wooden joints were always strengthened with metal nails.

In this presentation, the timber frame structure of the houses, which were built in Istanbul during the last period of the Ottoman Empire will be explained in detail. Moreover, their fixing and joint techniques, as well as the exterior and interior surfaces, and claddings, will briefly be mentioned. The statements are mainly based on the site investigations and measurements of numerous authentic elements from the timber houses built between the late 19th century and early 20th century, but also the published data, mainly school books or lecture notes of the related period, are used to support the findings. Sizes of the structural elements and the gaps will be given to provide an objective comparison. The relationship between the developments in the structural system with westernization will be discussed.