Inside story: Bursa

A journey through Turkish homes

By Lynn Gilbert | January 22, 2015


In our new blog series, the photographer Lynn Gilbert takes us on a journey through Turkish homes.

The above image was taken in Bursa, in a small village filled with wood-framed houses, similar in design to early English architecture, characterised by a horizontal band of timber which divides the upper and lower levels of the house. The lower parts of the houses in Bursa are constructed of large blocks of rugged stone, while the upper floors are sometimes a muted pastel colour. Today, sides of houses are usually flat, but when these houses were built the upper floor often projected out over the lower. The window frames are brightly coloured and the tiled roofs are often red. One sees homes like these in small towns in Bulgaria, where the houses – although very old – are of a much bolder design and look modern. The Bursa houses are old, worn and have incredible charm. 

Many of the old homes in Turkey are built so you see a series of rooms simultaneously. They are not like the cookie-cutter apartments of today – at least in the United States – where each living space is designed with four walls and a door for privacy.

This particular home was built along a winding cobbled road, rubbed smooth with age and edged with patches of moss. Owned by a farmer and his wife, the building embodies the essence of a truly humble Turkish home with great style.   

The owners’ few possessions are perfectly positioned. Clothes hang from hooks, as in many houses I visited in Turkey, as though placed there for decoration. I don’t ever remember seeing wardrobes, and if these old houses do have them they are shallow cabinets filled with neatly stacked layers of quilts.

It is the way belongings are placed in this house that gives it character. In place of a painting, the broken wall on the right – with the supporting structure peering through – breaks up what would be a long flat surface.

The brush standing against the end of the wall, is another accent, adding colour, shape and texture. The absence of a broomstick is for health reasons: in Turkey, as in India, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, you hardly ever see a broom with a stick. Constant bending supposedly protects people from back ailments. 

When photographing a home, I try never to move anything, so that the space can be seen as it really is. I framed the photo to show where one room ends and another begins. I did have to move the broom though, just a bit.

Bursa was wonderful. The trip there replaced a planned visit to Syria that I cancelled. Had I gone to Syria, I wouldn’t have photographed this glorious space – and enjoyed the added bonus of the photograph winning a prize in two photography contests.

Lynn Gilbert has been fascinated by people’s living environments since she was 16 years old. She has travelled the world photographing houses for most of her career. In nine trips to Turkey, Gilbert has photographed hundreds of homes in an effort to capture the living conditions of Turkish people, both affluent and modest, and to document the beautiful old houses that form part of Turkey's cultural heritage. Please visit her website for more photographs.

Copyright Lynn Gilbert.

Posted in Architecture, Design, Photography, Travel
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