Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chigan: Architecture



Land for construction is often at a premium. Lowland real estate is needed for farming, and slopes are difficult to build large structures on. Therefore, buildings in Chigan are relatively tall and narrow, with three or four stories being very common. In the lowlands, a typical household consists of several narrow towers at the corners of a walled courtyard. Stories within a tower typically consist of a single room; any necessary divisions are created by portable wooden or fabric screens. Small windows on all sides, often decorated with elaborately carved lattices, provide cross-ventilation without letting in too much light, while the courtyard provides shaded but open work space. Particularly wealthy homes are a complex of towers and small courtyards and sometimes contain a large central tower or high-ceilinged hall; temple and monastery architecture is similar. Poorer people live in compounds where they may occupy a tower (or just one floor of a tower) but share a courtyard with neighbors. Ladders are usually used instead of space-gobbling stairs; spiral staircases are a common sign of an up-and-coming household. Higher stories, and particularly the inward-facing sides, may have balconies.

At higher altitudes, a household may have a single, large tower with very thick, insulating walls. The interior is likely to be divided into rooms with walls rather than portable screens. Though such buildings typically have a walled courtyard, the walls are much lower than a town building, and work is only done there in calm weather. Typically, animals are kept on the ground floor, and people live upstairs.

In any event, most buildings are made of earthen materials. The hills are rich in broken stone, so most structures are rubble packed together with earth, with wooden floors and ceilings. The very poor may live in structures constructed mainly from bamboo, possibly with facings of mud and straw. Buildings are typically colored differently than their surroundings. Buildings of the moderately wealthy are whitewashed and have contrasting colors of paint around doors, windows, and any visible structural members, but even the poorest have at least a facing of clay which contrasts with the nearby earth. Inside, elaborately carved wooden panels and tapestry wall hangings are common decorations.

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