1.0 Traditional houses in Baghdad

The underlying guideline for building a traditional house in Baghdad followed the rules of “turf” which is derived from the Hadith, a saying in the Prophet. (Abu-Lughod, 1987) It basically demands physical and visual separation between men and women, and also retains privacy of individual houses. Another practical concern when designing the house was creating a microclimate.


Fig 1. Exterior of traditional houses in Baghdad © 1982, Warren and Fethi

From the outside, the façade clearly demonstrates the level of privacy demanded, ground floor shares only one opening which is the entrance, while on the first floor there are the screened cantilever (shanashil). (Warren and Fethi, 1982)

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Fig 2. First floor(left) and ground floor plan(right) © 1982, Warren and Fethi

Spaces in a traditional house are categorized according to spatial quality rather then programmatically. From this ideal square floor plan (reality is quadrangle due to site constraint), it can be seen that spaces on ground floor are more opened to the courtyard, the whole ground floor is the public space (diwankhana) where men can meet their guest. The spaces on the first floor are more self-contained in relation to the void, where female are allowed to live in these spaces. (Warren and Fethi, 1982)


Fig 3. Section with temperature indication © 1982, Warren and Fethi

The section shows how a traditional Baghdad house breaths. Central void act as both a vertical vent and communication hub. (Warren and Fethi, 1982)


Fig 4. Shanashil as viewed from inside © 1982, Warren and Fethi

To a more detailed level, the extruding window(shanashil) serves multiple functions. Climatically, it allows sunlight and wind to pass into the house, and when being heated up, air sucks out from it and creates ventilation. Socially it allows dweller to engage with the street both visually and verbally, with sufficient privacy achieved by the screen. (Warren and Fethi, 1982)





Warren, J. and Fethi, I. (1982). Traditional house in Baghdad. England: Coach Publishing House Ltd.

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