Ottoman Houses Have Style

The Balkans should rue the day that concrete was invented. Thanks to cheap vertical construction methods, austere wooden Ottoman homes became impractical to build and maintain and cities became ugly. Nothing scars a sweeping vista of olive groves and plane trees like a wreck of an unfinished concrete block with it’s ridiculous steel cords shooting futilely from the top slab. Look, no one is going to put a roof on this monstrosity let alone add extra floors.

So, with this scarred landscape in mind, the historic town of Berat is a true treasure. I imagine that towns like this swept from Istanbul to the Adriatic during the height of the Ottoman empire. The graceful dark beamed wooden homes, fronted with broad windows and welcoming porches, climb up the hillside and peek over their neighbor below. Each home is painted white, creating a pleasant visual continuity. Leave those lime green or electric mango eyesores to the new (and here’s an example where new certainly does not mean improved) section of town.

I can see myself on that breezy porch, receiving guests and sipping tea. I can’t really picture myself spying on those guests from a hidden room behind a screen so as to not be glimpsed indecently, so I guess I’d have to be a man in this daydream. I’m not saying I’m down with the Ottoman culture, just their architecture.

Concrete flooded this region like a lucid nightmare. People knew the Ottoman buildings were both beautiful and precious so they labeled Berat a museum city and moved on with the wave of ugly. But can’t someone figure out a way to make an attractive apartment building around here? The electric color palette isn’t the answer. Maybe we should take a tip from the Ottomans and go with classy whitewashing and dark wooden trim. That could be a good start.

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