September 11, 2010

Lesson 2 in Traditional Serbian Rural Architecture:Style by Regions

The method of construction in Serbian rural architecture were based on the experience of Serbian farmers, self-taught builders, who choose the best solutions and adjusted their houses to their life and work. This was not only expressed by the disposition of basic layout, format and organization of residential homes and commercial buildings, but also in the construction and the details. It was not based on fashionable developments in architecture and urbanism.

According of needs and lifestyle of the farmer, there were various types of houses:
• the unicellular houses in which the farmer shared the space with its cattle and the fireplace was located in the middle of the room with no chimney
• the two-room houses (this was the most popular type) were the living space was divided from a backroom and the animals were located in stalls
• more-room houses, where more rooms and a porch were added to the two room form (typical for the Vojvodina region)

When you travel cross the Balkans you notice various type of regional rural architecture:

• The Log Cabin of Western Serbia

 Typical Homestead of Western Serbian Cottages

The Log Cabin (Brvnara) with straw- or shingles-roof is found mostly in forestous and mountainous areas like Zlatibor and Tara region in Western Serbia (and in general in the dinaric alps - Western part of Serbian Kraijna, Bosnia, Eastern Montenegro). 

The luscious pine forests supply with good building material. Usually it has an elongated form, stands on a stone cellar and is placed orthogonally to the steep terrain and shows the cellar (izba) on the downhill side. Also typical is the huge pyramidal high-hipped roof placed on a relative low cubus of the cottage. Usually different cottages are placed together and build a harmonious looking homestead.

The harmonious composition of roofs in Kusturica's "Drvengrad" in Mokra Gora
Dinaric cottage interior (from Etnografic Museum Belgrade)
Homestaed of Cottages in Tara National Park, I like in particular how all the color graduation are only made by choosing different colored stones and different kind of Woods
Derivates of the Dinaric Cottage in Kusturica's "Drvengrad": he maintained the traditional language in shapes and materials and adapted it modern requirements.

Timber Cottages in Trsic (Vuk Karadzic's village): where the terrain is steep, the house has to adapt with its soccle 

Every cottage had its purpose. A typical homestead consisted of a chicken coop, a corn crib, a baking cottage, a place for drying plums, a guest cottage, a granary and a milk house for instance.
Sheperd's cottages in Tara National Park (link to the picture)

• The Moravian House 

 Typical old Bondruka (link to the picture)

In the area of the West Morava (Central and Eastern Serbia) it's more the Bondruka-type of house, usually two-room (living-space and sleeping-space) with tented roof covered with ceramic tiles. The walls are plastered and mostly white. Some have a stone socle or even a stone basement underneath. The Moravian House is widespread all over Serbia.
Moravian homestead in the Raska region 

A Bondruka style house of Eastern Serbia (link to the picture)

On the weather exposed side, the painted mud dries out and start to crumble down after a while. Here the wooden construction can be seen (link to the picture)

A 2-storeys version of Moravian House (link to the picture)

The interior of a Bondruka (picture from arvin studio)

• The Pannonian House (Vojvodinian House)

In the flat Vojvodina region, the layout of villages is orthogonally structured and houses are laid perpendicular to the street. So they were organized with a front room (living-space) a backroom (sleeping place) and a kitchen (with fireplace) just after the front porch. Between the houses lays the garden and the yard.
Influenced by Austro-Hungarian Empire these houses were often decorated in Art-Nouveau and Baroque-Style.

For more information about the Houses of Vojvodina there is a good link in Serbian here.

• The Oriental Style House in Southern Serbia  

 (link to the picture)

The Konak (word from turkish - palace) was represented for most of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, that is to say the end of the Ottoman presence and autonomy of the Principality of Serbia. Vranje is a city with lots of this style of houses.
In general, buildings of this period include a basement and two floors. The walls are pierced by many windows arranged symmetrically. The façade is decorated with one or two bay windows, a cantilevered glass Advanced overlooking the street and expanded interior space, while the courtyard façade is decorated with a balcony. The court, located at the rear of the manor, is fenced by high walls.

• Coastal Stone Houses


Stone houses are situated in Eastern Hercegovina, on the Montenegrin Coast and in some part of Dalmatia. Usually not only the walls were build in stone but stone was used for the roof decking as well.

Look also to this very interesting file to download here:
and part two here: 


When talking Balkans, a simple definition like "region" can easily provoke discussions about proper names, geographical definition and whether the buildings I'm talking about are just Serbian or generally just south-slavic houses. I try to give accurate informations keeping in mind that the purpose of my research work on rural Serbian houses, was to remodel an old Serbian family house and I was studying it traveling through Serbian regions (of today and the past). I'm of course aware that also in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and all over the South-Slavic region same (or similar) buildings are found. Also in specific regions that are Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia per definition today, were settled by Serbians earlier who left so prints in rural architecture. So it's not about who made what and where and who influenced who. These buildings were born out of specific necessities regardless of ethnic ideology….!


  1. These are great posts - very interesting even for the amateur architect! Have you see the Architectural Atlas of Montenegro ( There's quite a lot of interesting detail about the coastal and rural styles in there.

  2. fine, love this rural architecture too! took some b/w film shots of Drvengrad I will soon put on my web----> also attending an exhibition on October 22nd.

  3. @Paul:
    Thanks Paul for the link, I also had discovered it, and was hoping to find something like that for Serbia as well....
    I'll put the link directly into the post!
    @Ms Larsen: Let me know as soon as they are online...I'll link to them!

  4. This is fascinating. My Serb ancestors were from Vojvodina. I have never been there, but they must have lived in houses much like these.

    By the way...I see you have one of my blogs listed, namely 1389 Message Blog - that is an old blog that I still use for various miscellanous links. My main blog is 1389 Blog - Counterjihad!. I also blog regularly at 2.0: The Blogmocracy.

  5. hi, my name is Rocio, I´m Colombian architect, At my country we have Bondruka style homes too, I wonder if you know about the thermal coefficients of this type of wall and roof with straw.
    Thank you,
    best regards.