Page C1.1 . 06 March 2002                     
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    Lebanese Domestic Vernacular

    by Victor A. Khoueiry

    The vernacular dwelling is the unconscious expression of a people's culture. More than the architecture of secular or religious institutions, houses mirror the needs, desires, and living habits of a time because they are the direct result of the interaction between people and their environment.

    In Lebanon and adjacent areas of the Middle East, along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, we can see in the evolution of house types a simple and frugal society that created habitat with elementary means but insight into the functional requirements and the potential of available materials.

    Before the 20th century, house construction was traditionally the task of a village's master mason (mu'allim) who selected, in consultation with the client, one of the common plan types and proceeded without any formal documents. The house was built by simply following tradition, usually with participation from the owner's whole family.

    Those houses were built of the materials furnished by the environment and embedded in hilly landscapes humanized by countless terraces. They were a clear response to simple needs of protection and survival.

    The Closed Rectangular House

    The simplest flat-roofed house, dating back about 7-8000 years, consisted of a single square or rectangular space with a low door, ventilation openings below the roof, and one or two small windows. A "closed" house had no other openings in the outside wall.   >>>

     

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    A traditional rectangular house in Lebanon.
    Photo: Nadim Sebaali, Architect

    ArchWeek Image

    Interior columns in rectangular houses became a means for increasing effective beam spans and defining interior spaces.
    Photo: Nadim Sebaali, Architect

     

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