A typological perspective : the impact of cultural paradigmatic shifts on the evolution of courtyard houses in Cairo

Salama, Ashraf M (2006) A typological perspective : the impact of cultural paradigmatic shifts on the evolution of courtyard houses in Cairo. METU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, 23 (1). pp. 41-58. ISSN 0258-5316

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From the Introduction of the article: As both an urban and rural prototypical phenomenon the courtyard house type has emerged. It differs dramatically from other types of houses. In it, the outdoor space is enclosed within the interior volume and ultimately becomes the heart of its morphology and spatial organization. As a house type it was usually associated with the wealthy, and involved general physical features that pertain to its material and construction, spatial organization and interior decoration, and its overall visual appearance and environmental significance. Originally, the courtyard was called Qa’a that was surrounded by four unequal iwans with a fountain in the center. The form and typology of the courtyard has changed dramatically over the years. In the Fatimid era, the principle structure of the house was also the Qa’a. Literature indicates that it was a central area, not roofed, but protected in some cases by tents. This central area was bordered by two iwans, which were closed by folding doors. The only surviving example of this spatial device is found in Qa’a- Al-Dardiri in Cairo (Michelle, 1995). Similarly, the primary space and the central area of the Mamluk house was the Qa’a, as it was the focus of the private life and domestic activities. It was composed of three connected spaces; a central part named Durqa’a, an uncarpeted high roofed circulation space that provided light and enhanced ventilation, and two closed, raised and carpeted recesses named iwans. The roof of the Durqa’a was higher than that of the iwans in order to allow for a clear storey for ventilation and lighting purposes.