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Sharing Hayat

Gülşah Aykaç

Published Jul 24, 2020

hayat  [hajat]  (Turkish):

1.  Being  alive.

2.  Life.

3.  The  way  of  living,  the  lived  conditions.

4.   Occupation.

5.  All  of  the  conditions  to  live  on.

6.  The  action  which  shows  signs  of  being  alive.

7.   Destiny.

8.  Someone’s  biography.

9.  Mostly  in  vernacular  architecture,  a  space  with  one  or  more   sides  enclosed

( 2.62494876.  Last  Accessed:  01  February  2018).

χαγιάτι το [hajáti]  (Greek):

In folk  architecture,  a  covered  balcony  open  or  closed  by  glass   windows,  located  on  the front  of  the  house  and  an  extension  of  its  interior (χαγιάτι&dq=. Last Accessed:  09 January 2018).

ﺎةﺓَﯾﻳَﺣ  [hajat]  (Arabic):

1.  Life.
2.  A courtyard surrounded by walls, but the main door exists outside of the courtyard. Rooted in the Arabic hayt or hita (‘ /طﻁﯾﻳﺣ  ﺔطﻁﯾﻳﺣ) meaning surrounding  sides, to protect and hide.  (  Last Accessed:  01 February 2018).

Hayat/χαγιάτι/ َﺣ ﺎةﺓَ :ﯾﻳ

Playing a significant role in human lives, borders have been constructed and shaped throughout history under the changing circumstances of the natural and political environment. In the midst of this ongoing process, architecture, as the art and science of building, tells us another history beyond frictions, borders and nations.  In this latent field of explaining history, architecture speaks its own language, with its own grammar, which has been able to survive major shifts in the political topography. Hence, linguistics and architecture are strongly related, allowing us to look at  terminology in architecture, reinterpret them and explore the possible origins of spatial cultures in the search of  alternative geographies. Hayat/χαγιάτι/ َﺎَ ﺣﯾﻳ ةﺓ  is  a  key  example  of  this  interrelationship.

Looking at Greece and Turkey, it could be claimed that up until the late 19th century, hayat/χαγιάτι was still resonating in the spatial organization of people’s domestic lives within both  vernacular houses and the architectural language in Greece and Turkey as parts of the same  political­cultural  geography. However, this geography became fragmented with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, leaving many nation-states in its wake. Greece and Turkey, particularly, started striving to obliterate any remaining traces of the Ottoman Era, both taking principally West European modernization programs as the basis of their nation-building and (national) identity-creating. However, on the basis of historical evidence, it seems reasonable to argue that the existence of a hayat/χαγιάτι/   َﺣ ﺎةﺓَﯾﻳ was a basic spatial organization of houses throughout the mingled Turkic, Balkan, Arab, Greek and Ottoman geographies up until the 20th century. In this context, the usage and representation of hayat/χαγιάτι in Greece and Turkey in the late 19th century gives space to reconceptualize the term within its historical and geographical context. Since the grammar of architecture(s) sunk into oblivion firstly in language and then in architectural culture, this reconceptualizing provides a chance to think about alternative geographies through which the humanities, linguistics and architecture intersect. In terms of the history of modern architecture, the reinterpretation of the vernacular, or regional, or cultural gained particular importance in the world and also in Greece and Turkey after the critiques of high International Style and the element applied to civil architecture, which is mainly to houses with a yard. Sedad Hakkı Eldem was one of the pioneers of this approach. To that extent, hayat/χαγιάτι is a powerful term not simply exemplifying one historical period before the establishment of nation-­states, but also providing an opportunity to scrutinize the history of modern architecture in continuum with the pre-modern era.

The prevalence of common architectural concepts in Greek and Turkish indicates that architecture has a strong connection with linguistics. Indeed, mapping these concepts is a complex task in reference to the question of in which context they were being used. Linguistic conceptions can adapt in daily life, transforming according to changes in their environments, just as architecture does. From a similar perspective, as a salient part of the history of modern architecture, Quatremère de Quincy interpreted the issue of the roots of architecture in a unique way. According to him, architecture has multiple roots and is closely related to language and society. (Lavin, 1992, p. 18). This emphasis on the notion of society led to the transformation of some basic types of architectures into sophisticated forms, resembling the development of a language because “the act of expressing through languages or the act of building were both human’s social, operative and reasonable processes” (Lavin,  1992,  p.40).

Quatremère de Quincy’s theory emerged during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic expedition into Egypt. These two significant events led scholars to question architecture within the context of politics. The discovery of Egyptian architecture led to critiques of the chronology and hegemony of Ancient Roman architecture and the recognition of  other possible roots of architectures such as Chinese and Egyptian (Lavin, 1992, p. 40).  Quatremère de Quincy’s theory thus suggested a shared life that transcended not only the borders of European nations but also the separation between east and west. His archival exploration focused on the similarity in reasoning behind socially-constructed language and socially-constituted architecture. It influenced architectural theory at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.

Shared spatial cultures and their prevalence beyond frictions, borders and nations have been an important theoretical approach in architectural historiography. This could be understood as a significant shift in the history of modern architecture initially theorised by Quatremère de Quincy. Modern architecture was constituted by architectures emerging from spatial cultures including not only so-called Western Europe, but also the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia.  Hayat/χαγιάτι/   َ ﺣﯾﻳ ةﺓَﺎ reveals evidence that the domestic organization of home before industrialization and urbanization could be reconceptualized to highlight and research an alternative geography, one where life, as well as architecture was once shared.


Doğan, H. (2003/2016) Dictionary of Architecture and Building. Istanbul: YEM.
Lavin, S. (1992) Quatremère de Quincy and the Invention of a Modern Language of Architecture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Tzonis, A. and Rodi, A. (2013). Greece: Modern Architectures in History. London: Reaktion  Books.
Τζαρτζάνου, Z. A. (1981). Λεξικό των λαϊκών τεχνικών όρων της οικοδομικής (των μεγάλων αστικών κέντρων).  Athens:  Λύχνος.

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