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Title: Typology and Composition of the Traditional Palestinian House
Authors: Ghadban, Shadi
Issue Date: 2000
Publisher: Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies
Abstract: The traditional architecture in Palestine has been developed as the fruit of interaction between the general Middle Eastern concepts and the specific character of Palestine. This interaction has produced very strong expression on the vernacular level where people respond directly to the existing environment (A'rraf, 1985). Land was the main source of livelihood and status, with very limited transactions with the regional or world market. The Palestinian community retained a system of agricultural subsistence, employing simple agricultural technology. The village as a whole and not the individual was considered the unit of taxation by the state, the community had patriarchal households, the extended family acting as the main unit of production and consumption and labour was divided along clear gender lines (A'miry, 1986). By the turn of this century, the Palestinian built space experienced dramatic transformations in the socio-economic conditions as well as the cultural values of the Palestinian society. The simplest form of the dwelling house -the shepherd's house has been transformed into new patterns of housing dwellings: peasant's house, village house, isolated residences and the relatively luxurious dwellings of the upper classes. A chain of interdependent structural transformations involving privatization of the land tenure, changes in the organization of the agricultural labour process, marginalisation of agricultural activities, emigration of male family members and nucleisation of the extended land has brought about the critical changes in the existing patterns of spatial relations. All these changes have proved that architectural systems, i.e., new methods of constructions, the use of new building materials and the adaptation of new building forms, would not be appreciated by the traditional Palestinian peasant society, unless this society was exposed to external forces that operated to undermine the conditions of its existence both at the sociocultural and material levels. These external forces are the Ottoman land reforms and the British colonial policies. This study will aim to highlight the development of the Palestinian dwelling house during the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. The reason for limiting the scope of this study to this period is that few houses exist, which was built before nineteenth century and more of them has been extensively restored that they can no more belong to any specific period
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