Art of Uzbekistan – Architecture and Artistic Culture of the Traditional Dwelling in Uzbekistan

Issue #1 • 1472

Highly artistic samples of housing architecture of the 18th-early 20th centuries presenting architectural peculiarities of Samarkand and Bukhara, Khiva and Tashkent, Fergana and Sakhrisyabz have reached our times. Every school built up in this or that city displays the sample of the original approaches to the formation of functional and outlaying solutions, decorative attire of the interiors and exteriors, and accomplishment of the courtyards.

There is an important task to preserve this wealth, study it and make it the property of the scientific and cultural community.

In the past investigation of the traditional dwelling focused on the climatologic aspects of its formation and functional peculiarities. A new stage in the investigation of the traditional dwelling is characterized by the study of psycho-emotional qualities of housing environment, its dimensions, decorative attire, treatment of light and shadow plastics creating certain psychological climate in the dwelling  place, as well as transformation of various culture elements into architectural practices. Being aware of the important role of dwelling in the social development of the community, we should not forget that each of them by itself stands out as a complicated system, work of art, an object fulfilling cultural and social functions. From this point of view, priority is attached to the issues of composition-spatial structure of houses and, respectively, organization of the interior, architectural and landscape solution. Imperishable value of these objects is conditioned, first, by the integrity of the basic artistic idea and functional architectural mastery. One of the consequent tasks is the search for optimum opportunities of their preservation and timely utilization.

Architectural composition. Natural-climatic conditions and public-political order of the Medieval East determine the common feature of the dwelling place, its closed character. Townsfolk spent time freed from work at home, where mehmonhona (the sitting room) fulfilled  the tiny rudiment of public function. The dwelling place was surrounded by the blank walls protecting from the nasty sanitary state of the whole city caused by high summer temperatures of the ambient air. This helped to create fairly good micro climate, provide cleanliness of the courtyard and dwelling territories.

The dwelling place was split into two parts, external and internal, – tashkari and ichkari or birun and darun. In the first part, the owner received visitors and went into crafts; here were the mehmonhona, workshops, stables, forage storage facilities and other utility rooms; in the second part, the family lived in the grouped living premises – dakhliz, khona, ui and services – kitchen, pantries and the like. Sometimes there stood out a special utility yard, in other cases dimensions of the plot allowed cultivation of a garden.

It is worth mentioning the interaction of architecture and natural environment (including relief). Water is of great importance in the arid climate. If the house has a garden, the pond surrounded by the trees is made there. On its bank is built a special trestle bed – sufa – the place where family rests and receives its guests. To avoid dampness, gardens have only ariks (ditches) and small water reservoirs.

Much attention is paid to greenery. Even the house is constructed with the consideration of the trees growing on the plot.

Exterior of the dwelling, in the first sight, is far from being expressive – cob walls with a very accidental architectural touch – a shadowy spot, lodjia, trelliswork of the embrasure – livens up the poor smoothness of a street facade. However, inside the courtyard cool shade of the aivan, greenery of the vineyard, cleanliness and comfort await you. Variety of architectural solutions was found inside the courtyard where facades of the surrounding constructions looked out. The architect interpreted the architectural function as organization of inner spaces with room interior in the foreground and a courtyard as the second meaningful element.

Courtyard ensembles. A house begins with a darvazahona – a roofed corridor leading to the inner yard. Balahona, a room of the second circle is often situated above it.

The courtyard is the interior in the open air where the inhabitants communicate. It is the living center, the green and salutary oasis. Comfort of dwelling depends on correct organization of courtyard’s space. It is a harmonious architecture ensemble, all parts of which must be interrelated and pre-concerted.

The flow of architectural components, alternation of rooms and aivans determine artistic expressiveness of the ensemble. Modesty and constancy characterize the exterior architectural design: two-three embrasures with the shutters and upper trellises – panjara cut through the laconic volume of the front wall. In the 19th century aivan  called lodjia became widely spread. It was attached to the front of the room and combined the role of communicating, and summer premises. In a common structure aivan serves the link and always joins the room adding flexibility and seismic stability to the whole volume. Application of the in-built aivans broadens the courtyard space, increases the volume of shadowed squares and improves airing of the rooms and of the courtyard. In addition, being original storerooms of living space, aivans can be easily transformed into winter premises. Sometimes aivans are situated in front of the premises along the short wall in the courtyard or adjoin them with the help of the disconnected blocks attaching them the sight of multi-column galleries.

Other artistic and architectural characteristic acquires the construction when it comprises aivan – kashgarcha with the flexible structure of lift blinds – rovon, having either flat or spatial look. Mobile character of aivan-kashgarcha whose blinds allow peeping into the inner volume, introduces liveliness and diversity into a general composition. Courtyard architecture often includes porticoes, galleries of Fergana type with the elevated middle part of the ceiling – katan. Such architectural details like columns, overhead covers and cornices of aivans, trellises and blinds actively participated in the formation of the artistic look of the courtyard ensemble. Blinds of similar design differed by the way of hanging. They opened inside or outside. Usually they are paneled or made of boards. The latter are fastened on the inner side with the cleat on the wrought nails.

Mainly flat carvings with background clearance adjustment (pargori, bagdodi and islimi types) decorated surfaces of the blinds. Geometrical patterns of rhombs, circles, and triangular arches were filled with vegetation ornament. The most spread motif was the grid ornament. Stylized image of a bird often repeats to testify that motives were undergoing modifications and their original sense became hardly guessable.

Old trellises – panjras in light embrasures above windows were usually made of small wooden bars or gypsum. Their geometric design looking like fine lace marked with the local style specificity livens up the smoothness of beaten cob-work of the walls. The trellises were topped with paper that later on was substituted by colored glasses. In the course of time, panjra became out-dated and was replaced by swinging glassed frames of the European style with the casements of large but no less interesting and various patterns. Rectangular elements including curvilinear shapes like circles, coves, segments and their derivatives, varied in them.

No less interesting and characteristic are the details of open aivans: columns, arch legs and cornices of the overhead covers.

Columns together with the overhead cover make up an original Uzbek order. The developed form of the order comprises the basis, column with the trimmer, bearer and a cornice. Wooden basis of the concave profile (square at the bottom, and octagon at the top) is inseparable from the stem fashioned from the one-piece timber.  Stem of the rounded or octagonal section with the spherical basis kuzaghi is compulsorily provided with the carved trimmer, but does not always have a capital. Stalactites capital is assembled from the attachable plated and shaped bars. Sometimes it is presented by a square timber enframed on the four angles or has the shape of an upside down cone. The trimmer is decorated by the figured profile shaped as single or double madohils. The bearing purlin is usually smooth.  The cornice is formed by the figured edges of ceiling beams leaning against the purlin. Space between the beams is covered with the small plates – kabzi.  Order details in rich houses were decorated with paintings. By the beginning of the 20th century the bearer’s columns character had been changed: columns had been replaced by the legs with the simplified pattern trimmer, cornices acquired different contours allegedly displaying influence of the Russian architecture.  Multi-row cornices often remind of the wooden valances decorated with profile carving comprising details of coves, ripples, hearts and posies.

Interior. There were general and individual designing principles and artistic means applicable for interior formation and house planning characteristic of every district of Uzbekistan. The interior was made of the cob or brick floor, framework walls and wooden ceiling with timbers. Sizes of room plans range within 5.5-6 m x 3.5 m. Rooms were adjoined on the edges; suite of rooms was missing; interiors were looked upon like isolated spaces. There was no particular difference between mehmonhona and living rooms, although mehmonhona stood out for its big sizes. The same was the thoroughness of finishing.

Missing furniture provided originality of everyday arrangements in the Uzbek interior. Room’s space remained free, but at the same time, there were niches in the walls for the household utensils. Free space was conventionally split into functional zones: poigoh and peshgoh. Poigoh is the closer to the entrance part of the room where a small table was placed above the sandal (coal pit serving to heat the premises). Peshgoh, the place for the most honored guests, was located in the rear end of the room opposite the door.

Let us consider interior types of traditional dwellings in different parts of Uzbekistan.

Bukhara. Interior decoration stands out for its luxuriant stalactites cornices, bright wall paintings, white invisible mending and plaster profiling. Ceiling beams are square at the base and turn into round ones with the help of the stalactites angles. Facades do not have cornices, trellises are often made of alabaster and have fine patterns and the most spread type of doors and blinds called bogdodi. Ornaments of door trellises is often repeated, and luxurious fragmentation of stalactites decorations tires one’s eyes. Summer room is the most front one; mehmonhona is arranged at the ends with one or even two mezzanines – shakhniches – a specific attribute of the Bukhara house.

Khiva. Carvings of doors and columns stand out for their original ornament and mastery of performance; simple but exquisite pattern of trellises of the upper embrasures nicely decorates flatness of the walls.   Columns with the carved trimmers change the houses of Khiva.

Shakhrisyabz. Carvings on wood, trellises, and column details are of original character. Interior decorations include bright coloring of niches and pictures, intensive painting of the walls, preference is given to polychromy.

Tashkent. Walls of two-row carcass possess niches with cells. Rooms in affluent houses are richly decorated with ganch carvings. Much attention is attached to the decoration of ceilings. They are figured and painted; wall paintings are fragmentary inside the niches, and even rarer on the pictures.

Samarkand. Samarkand interior contains ganch carving and skilled painting on the walls and ceilings.    Therefore, by the number of niches we can specify types of the interior in the Uzbek houses in the following way: Fergana and Tashkent houses rooms have niches in four walls; in Shakhrisyabz – in three walls; in Samarkand – in two walls; in Bukhara – in two or one walls; and niches are missing at all in the Khiva houses.

Decorative finishing of the dwelling houses is mainly presented by carving and painting on ganch and wood. Carved ganch was the most popular, labor consuming and expensive type of finishing. Painting is shown in all glory of the decorative art tracing the breath of the time – synthesis of classical ornamental pattern with the realistic trends.

Painting depicting bunches of flowers, bushes and small trees attracts by the virtuosity of performance and original interpretation of traditional plots. Color spectrum of light pastels – blue, maroon-pinkish, red and yellow – fascinates by the nobility and tenderness of colors and creates the proper emotional tuning. As a rule, finishing has nothing accidental: everything has been calculated, considered, thought out, inter-related, rationally grounded and artistically expressive. Core elements are highlighted and gaudy, secondary ones are more modestly decorated. The ornament is strictly subordinated to the form and ensures its revelation. Every detail has its own shape, motif and character of the pattern.

Traditional means of artistic expressiveness cannot disclose the character and indicators of today’s way of life in full. However, study of the folk aesthetic norms opens broad opportunities for mastering our artistic heritage and searches for a new style reflecting current requirements to a dwelling place.

At present, the gigantic creative capacity accumulated in the course of many-century development can become the vanguard of the artistic process and revive the rational artistic and expressive touches of interior decorations in the contemporary dwelling of Uzbekistan.

 

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