Blackhouse - vernacular architecture


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Blackhouse - vernacular architecture found in Scotland and Ireland.

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  • Blackhouse - vernacular architecture

    1. 1. BLACKHOUSE A blackhouse is a traditional type of house which used to be common in the  Highlands of Scotland, The Hebrides and Ireland.
    2. 2. CLIMATE      Scotland has a very changeable climate. One minute the sun could  be splitting the stones, the next minute it could be lashing rain.  Throughout the day, there are often wide variations in the climate.  There are also wide variations over small distances.  Although Scotland just touches on the Arctic Circle, the Gulf Stream  winds manage to keep the temperatures relatively mild.  In the Highlands, the weather can turn extreme at any time - and  very quickly too.  Scotland’s East Coast tends to be cool and dry. In winter the  temperature rarely drops below freezing. On the West Coast, it is a  lot milder and wetter with average highest summer temperatures of  around 19°C (66°F), in summer. Scotland’s driest months are May  and June; the warmest are July and August. In northern Scotland  the summer sun barely sets while during the winter months it hardly  rises at all.
    3. 3. THE BLACKHOUSE OF THE HIGHLANDS • The Longhouse The blackhouses of the Highlands of Scotland were byre dwellings in the tradition of ‘long houses’ which have existed Northern Europe for over a thousand years. Originally blackhouses had no chimneys or windows and were built with locally-found materials - stone, turf, thatch of reeds, oats, barley or marram grass. - usually on the worst arable land.
    4. 4. DESCRIPTION • The buildings were generally built with double wall dry-stone walls packed with earth and wooden rafters covered with a thatch of turf with cereal straw or reed. The floor was generally flagstones or packed earth and there was a central hearth for the fire. There was no chimney for the smoke to escape though. Instead the smoke made its way through the roof. • The black house was used to accommodate livestock as well as people. People lived at one end and the animals lived at the other with a partition between them.
    5. 5. SETTLEMENT PATTERNS • Before the introduction of crofting at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the ‘farms’ on the Highland estates were run by tacks men who paid a rent to the clan chief. On each farm there would be a small settlement whose inhabitants would pay their rents to the tacks man. The system of farming used was known as ‘run-rig.’ This was when the fields were worked communally and in rotation. Because of this collective method of farming, blackhouses were clustered together into small ‘clachan’, normally close to the freshwater source. Crofting saw the disappearance of the tacks men and the division of the ‘farms’ into apportionments where each tenant had their own piece of land. The blackhouses were rebuilt on each croft - usually on the worst arable land.
    6. 6. THE NAME ‘BLACKHOUSE’ • It is tempting to think that the name "Blackhouse" had something to do with the largely windowless darkness in which people would have lived, or the peat smoke. • In fact it stems from the introduction of more modern housing from the end of the 1800s in response to legal and other pressures, especially to separate housing for people from housing for animals. These new cottages became known as "white houses", and the more traditional dwellings they started to replace became know as blackhouses simply to distinguish the two styles.
    7. 7. ENVIRONMENTAL ARCHITECTURE SITING The form and siting of the Blackhouse, low and sunk into the contours of the land, reduced wind exposure and heat loss.
    8. 8. THE FIRE In the old Blackhouse the fire was built in the centre of the floor and there was no chimney. This was extremely energy efficient. The fire was the centre of family life and was never allowed to go out - it was smoored in the evening.
    9. 9. THE WALLS AND ROOF The thick stone walls and earthen floor would absorb the heat of the fire during the night. The earth core of the walls was good insulation and kept out draughts through the dry stone wall. The turf and thick thatch, heavy with soot, were also good insulants.
    10. 10. LIVESTOCK The cow or cattle were often under the same roof as the humans during the winter. This was for the sake of the animal - it was essential to the family that the cow was in good health and gave a good yield of milk. The livestock not only benefited from the warmth of the fire but also gave out large quantities of heat itself, from its body and manure.
    11. 11. THE MANURE The byre was at the lower end of the house so that the urine would drain into the arable land. The ammonia from the urine also helped to sterilize the house. Each spring the byre would be cleaned out of the accumulated manure which would be placed on the crops as fertilizer. Human waste would also be gathered for this purpose with the urine being used for treating fabrics such as tweed. THE SMOKE The peat smoke from the open fire would fill the house and act as a sterilizer - killing bugs and germs. It would escape by seeping through the thatch, enriching it with soot. The sootsaturated thatch was removed periodically and used as a fertilizer for the crops.
    12. 12. MATERIALS Good timber was precious. When moving, or building a new house, the couples and good roof timbers were often removed and re-used. This also applied to any windows, and good stones used as lintels.
    13. 13. RESPONSE TO THE ENVIRONMENT THE FORM The form and siting of the blackhouses was influenced by the fear of storms. The house was low and contour hugging, often being built into the slope or embankments. The roof was rounded, leaving no sharp edges for the wind to catch.
    14. 14. THE PLAN openings were almost universally on the east side of the building, the south westerly prevailing winds hitting nothing but blank walls. When people rose in the morning they were met (occasionally) with the sun in their faces. This was important. The siting of the blackhouses conformed to the old Gaelic proverb 'An iar's an ear, an dachaigh as' fhéarr - cùl ri gaoith,'s aghaidh ri gréin.' (East to west, the house that's best - back to the wind and face to the sun).
    15. 15. MATERIALS The materials used were those that were available. This depended on where a person lived, the rules of the estate, and a person's wealth. As a result, the houses were built of entirely local material. When people could afford to buy in better materials, however, they did so.
    16. 16. METHOD OF CONSTRUCTION • • A Blackhouse usually comprised a long narrow building, often with one or more additional buildings laid parallel to it and sharing a common wall. The walls were made from an inner and outer layer of unmortared stones, the gap between them filled with peat and earth. The roof would be based on a wooden frame, resting on the inner stone walls, giving the very characteristic wall-ledge. Over the frame would be laid an overlapping layer of heathery turves, and over this would be laid a layer of thatch. The thatch would be secured by an old fishing net or by twine, attached to large rocks whose weight held everything down. More rocks would be laid around the bottom of the roof, where it met the inner wall. The roof traditionally had no chimney, the smoke from the peat fire in the central hearth simply finding its own way out as it could. The smoked thatch was considered an excellent fertilizer and it was normal to strip it off for this purpose and rethatch the roof each year.
    17. 17. The floor of the living area of the Blackhouse would usually be flagged. The animals would be at one end of the house, and in the byre area there would be earth flooring, usually with a drain for some of the animal waste. Part of the Blackhouse would also be used as a barn for storage and processing of grain and other products. While the underlying design of the blackhouses may seem to have a direct lineage dating back to Orkney's Skara Brae, 5,000 years ago, most were not as old as you might think. The Blackhouse used as the museum was built as recently as 1875. And in 1960 there were still nine blackhouses in use in Arnol: while the group now restored as the Blackhouse village at Gearrannan, further along the coast, was only abandoned in 1974. Completing the complex is an excellent visitor centre in another nearby converted cottage. This provides background information and has a very helpful cutaway model of the Blackhouse. The Blackhouse Museum is open all year round: but is closed on Sundays.
    18. 18. Reconstruction of the Blackhouse exterior in 3ds Max showing the thatch roof and twine structure weighted down with stones.
    19. 19. Reconstruction of the Blackhouse exterior in 3ds Max showing the layer of peat slabs below the thatch, with gaps to allow smoke to dissipate.
    20. 20. Reconstruction of the Blackhouse exterior in 3ds Max with the entire peat layer removed, showing the structure of the lower wooden coursing.
    21. 21. Reconstruction of the Blackhouse exterior in 3ds Max with all upper layers removed showing only the internal A-frame structure
    22. 22. A cleit with a Blackhouse-style thatched roof, note the curved ends (Fleming 2005, 93 - Although this is a cleit, the Blackhouse roofs looked exactly the same.
    23. 23. DEVELOPMENT OF THE STRUCTURE The addition of chimneys.
    24. 24. • The building housing the museum, No. 42 Arnol, is generally authentic, though now roofed to a much higher standard, especially at the byre end, than would have been typical at the time. It also spares visitors the experience of sharing a roof with the animals, and some of the 1900s additions like lino floors and roughly hung wallpaper extending into the roof have also been removed. • But even if what you see today is a slightly sanitized version of life in a Blackhouse, the atmosphere is still remarkable: literally. With a peat fire smoldering away in the central hearth, you might emerge free of the smell of animals, but you will certainly emerge wondering how the residents survived the all pervasive peat smoke
    25. 25. A general view down the Street around 1930, note the blackhouses have had their roofs replaced.
    26. 26. AN EXAMPLE: THE LEWIS BLACKHOUSE • • Although the Lewis blackhouses have a look of real antiquity, most of the upstanding ruins were built less than 150 years ago. Many were still roofed until the 1970s but without the necessary annual repairs deteriorated rapidly; as people moved into more modern dwellings with indoor plumbing and better heating, most have fallen into ruin. However, black houses are increasingly being restored, especially for use as holiday accommodation. The blackhouses on the Isle of Lewis have roofs thatched with cereal straw over turf and thick, stone-lined walls with an earthen core. Roof timbers rise from the inner face of the walls providing a characteristic ledge at the wall head (tobhta). This gives access to the roof for thatching. Both the animals and occupants shared the same door, living at different ends of the same space. Several long ranges, or rooms, were usually built alongside each other, each one having its own ridgeline giving them the very distinctive look of the Lewis blackhouse.
    27. 27. • The immediate origins of the blackhouse are unclear as few pre-eighteenth century examples have ever been excavated. One reason for this is that, unlike their later counterparts, the early examples may have been made of turf and thatch and quickly returned to the earth once abandoned. As one of the most primitive forms of the North Atlantic longhouse tradition it is very probable that the roots of the blackhouse, in which cattle and humans shared the same roof, is well over 1000 years old. The Lewis examples have clearly been modified to survive in the tough environment of the Outer Hebrides. Low rounded roofs, elaborately roped were developed to resist the strong Atlantic winds and thick walls to provide insulation and to support the sideways forces of the short driftwood roof timbers.
    28. 28. Presented by Khushboo Sood B.Arch 4th Sem