The connection between man, nature and architecture
Unlike the houses in the Rhodope and Stara Planina mountains, typical Strandzha houses are not protected by high stone walls. They are instead organized in an enclosed fashion, so that everyday activities can be performed normally without any need to go outside.
Until the Liberation in 1917, sheepherding was the main occupation in Strandzha, while agriculture was limited to small gardens in the houses’ yards, catering only to family needs. In addition to their houses, more opulent families owned shepherd’s huts near the grazing grounds, where men spent the major part of the year, only returning home on grand occasions such as holidays or weddings; women and childern often went to join them at the huts.
After 1913, when the border with Turkey was set in place, the people of Strandzha lost a significant part of their pastures, many of which were now on Turkish territory. They also lost access to major markets for their production, which quicky led to the decline of shepherding. Instead, Strandzhan people turned to woodsmanship and charcoal production, while the practice of agriculture remained limited to a family level.
The arrangement of the houses is determined directly by the way of life and the dominant occupation of its owners, and evolves in parallel with their shifting.
SINGLE-LEVEL STAVE HOUSES – 17TH TO 18TH CENTURY
The oldest house typology, of which only a few exemples remain today. It consists of a main living space and a dark room for the livestock.
It is made of oaken staves on a stone base with no foundation. There are no windows, daylight is brought in only trough the large chimney and the entrance door.
PRE-REVIVAL HOUSES – 19TH CENTURY
On two levels, the lower serving as a barn. The upper level no longer has a direct connection to the yard, so a coursive is put in place to accomodate some of the household day-to-day activities, while the backroom becomes a storeroom and a granary.
Strandzha houses from the revival period
The house is asymmetrical and organized on two levels. It follows an enfilade logic (rooms give direct access to one another and all the successive doors are disposed in a single axis). The stairway is usually found on the narrow side of the house.
A single home usually has two living spaces, housing an elder couple and their married son and his wife. The younger couple traditionnaly strives to have its own house, which is usually built by the whole family in the same yard as the old house.
Front room: a spare room for the younger couple or for guests. The fireplace (if present) is in the angle.
Main room: main living space with a large fireplace and oven.
Back room: storage and granary. The walls are left with no plastering to allow ventilation.
Coursive: access corridor, the most characteristic feature of a typical Strandzha house. It is present in all evolutionary stages of the two-storey house. Houses the lavatory and the latrine; it is completely windowless, save for a small opening above the lavatory. Also acts as a thermal buffer.
Some houses develop a square plan with a sitting space and two rooms. The most caracteristic feature – the coursive – remains