Political integrity of nations such as Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand Khanates that existed on the territory of present day Uzbekistan in the 18th-19th centuries facilitated the evolution of three local architectural art schools, including three main types of housing — each with its own specific features and techniques of constructional and decoration.
At first glance, urban housing that has occupied a special place in the architectural and artistic culture of Uzbekistan, is rather plain and monotonous, with solid blank walls along the facades. At the same time, housing interiors are characterized with spaciousness, picturesque-ness, scale and a particular privacy born from the individual setup of each household. V. Voronina once observed that Uzbek traditional dwelling, like a pearl-shell, is hiding art treasures inside the shell of solid and unpretentious earthen walls (1).
The layout structure of a residential area represented a group of isolated land lots with autonomous economy. An individual land lot within city boundaries included a house and ancillary facilities, and often a piece of farmland. In construction, a typical medieval principle of compositional solution was followed, yet exceptions were made to take into account particular odds such as land plot shape or street direction.
Each of the architectural art schools developed its own architectural layout solution for housing construction.
Bukhara School. Bukhara is one of the most ancient cities in the world located at the crossroads of major caravan trails, the capital city of Bukhara Emirate. As a result of exceptional crowdedness of urban housing most residential land lots were small in size and of irregular shape to follow the direction of the streets. Therefore, homes in Bukhara rose upwards and had two or three storeys. On a land lot there are usually separate men’s section called birun and women’s section, darun, and a household yard.
Bukhara housing is characterized with a clear division into summer rooms (tobiston) facing north, and winter rooms (zimiston) facing south or west. Each residential cell consists of a central room and ancillary rooms located at its sides. The sitting room was a summer room with high ceiling, and the sitting room space interfaced at the edges with several entresols, shokh-nishin, fitted above the central and ancillary rooms, madon. Shokh-nishin was the place of honour for guests and served as mekhmonkho-na (guest room); this is one of the housing peculiarity in this region.
When building a house, next to a summer room they installed a high open terrace fitted with numerous columns and paved with baked brick. Above the ground floor roof there were narrower and lower terraces, aivanchi or nim-aivan; these were used for sleeping in summer time.
Interior of the halls was formed with two-row frame of walls with beam roofing. This structure determined the sectioning of walls into tall narrow niches with vaults on longitudinal and gable walls of the rooms, as well as the rhythm of openings all facing one way (doors and windows with carved wooden blinds, and above them patterned grids with vaulted window). All these architectural elements of Bukhara housing determined the techniques of interior decoration not only for framework dwellings, but also for more monumental buildings. Even in mosques with dome roofing, in the absence of niches, the wall was divided into traditional components: panel; narrow vertical (sometimes square) panels; and frieze. Ceiling, depending on the structure, was segmented into separate elements: beams, coffering or large planes — patterned plafond and recessed stalactite little domes called khauzak.
The interior of living rooms was worked out more carefully compared to that of mekhmonkhona. Tall walls were bordered with carved gypsum plastering and multi-tier stalactite cornice called sharafa. As ornamental elements, stalactite cornices and decorative lancet niches were used segmented into a multitude of cells and panels of different size and were covered with painting or carving. Placed on the panel there were geometrical patterns or medallions, lancet and figured arches mikhrab, dakhana painted into the panel plane, small elongated figures kitoba positioned over large panels or beneath them. Tympanums of lancet (ravok dakhana) or scalloped (davri-poya) niches were decorated with carved or painted patterns, and niches themselves had carved or cast vaults of different systems: shield-shape (kolib-kori), stalactite (mukarnas, iroki)…
In the rooms with single-tier frame where niches were absent, mino shelves were installed, sometimes with small niches cast in gypsum in several rows. In their favourite manner, the people of Bukhara included a small finely wrought carved gypsum lattice among the niche cells — the lattice depicted a stylized choba-ka jar; or installed a geometrical pan-jara grid called khat-kash against a dark background of a niche or on alabaster board. Niches were painted in bright, saturated colours: red, deep-blue, purple, green… In rich homes of Bukhara mekhmonkhona had tall lancet niches decorated with painting and stalactites and had no shelf partitioning.
Prevailing motifs in the wall panel painting are a flower bouquet in a vase, blossoming bushes and trees, iris and chrysanthemum flowers, willow-tree branches and the like. The manner of painting is quite liberal, despite certain conventionality of presentation; proportions are well balanced, colouring harmonious and drawing graceful. Painting was usually performed in yedirma technique characterized by stretching colours from dark to lighter shades and in reverse. Floral and vegetable painting was often combined with geometrical ornament made of carved plaster. Decoration of carved plaster panels employed geometrical gyrikh compositions that consisted of multi-beam stars, pentagons, octagons, decagons and dodecagons with additional vegetable designs such as little flowers, convolvuluses and the like. The panel background was coloured differently depending on their positioning.
The colourfulness of interior was amplified through the finishing of ceilings. The ceiling plane was divided into plafond and coffers decorated with khauzak. Ceiling beams at the centre of a rectangular bay were covered in braid-shaped carving and arabesque-floral painting. The beams were laid in semicircular poles called vassa-chup and also covered in graceful pattern of vegetable shoots and leaves. Painting of ceilings and walls stood out in the uniqueness and originality of interpretation.
Khiva School. Autonomy and remoteness of Khiva Khanate from other cultural centres served the formation of a remarkable and peculiar architectural art school, and its isolated location among lifeless deserts contributed to the sustainability of the tradition (1, p. 15).
In Khorezm house roofs are flat because of insignificant rainfall and are only 15-18 cm thick; the roof edges have skirting that prevents water drainage.
Structural base of Khiva dwelling consists of duvals and single-row wooden framework filled with adobe blocks. Due to the crowdedness of land lots in the city centre a little yard is limited in size, which is compensated by the diversity of land lot configuration.
The principle layout structure of a Khiva home consists of a yard and rooms with a large ong-aivan — an anteroom, and one-storey ters-aivan positioned in front of it that expands the yard area. Sometimes avian is replaced with a covered yard called do-lon, which is a characteristic feature of a Khorezmian aivan-yard that distinguishes it from open household yards in other areas of Uzbekistan.
In the layout composition the principle of a central entrance hall into which all other rooms open is carefully maintained. The distribution of living and ancillary rooms follows a clear system and order. Mekhmonkho-na, the rooms for receiving guests, are usually situated closer to the entrance. Living rooms are divided into main ones called saroi, which are adjacent to the great aivan and are used as summer chambers, and side rooms called yonbosh-uy.
A Khiva home is based on a single-row framework, which excludes the possibility of making niches in the walls. Room walls are coved with cob clay or gypsum plaster. Smooth surface of the walls remained undeco-rated, without complex three-section vertical segmentation, and only on a gable wall people built lacy alabaster shelves and niches with figured carving. House ceilings with a roof flat from inside were covered with semicircular beams called bolyor and smaller vassa poles — patyk (juft-patyk for solid one); these were not decorated, neither with painting, nor carving -any ornamentation was absent. At the centre of the room a column was installed that supported ceiling beams.
Khorezm is a region where straight-stemmed tree varieties do not exist. Therefore, imported timber was expensive, and local masters cherished wood, decorating it with exquisite and complicated carving. A Khiva column is a true masterpiece of artistic creation. It stands out with its complex carved diicor, special outlines of the base and bolster beams and the absence of a capital.
Aivan columns functioned not only as bearing structural elements, but also as purely decorative features in fa3ade and in interior solutions. Fine and graceful carving divided the column stem into many broad and narrow bands laced together by vegetable motifs and spiral incisions. Lower parts of a stem — spherical kuzag covered in traditional blades, madokhil, as well as stone bases used as column foundation, were different in shape.
In Khiva where seismicity is insignificant, stem and base of a column were prepared separately. This has to do with the fact that in the region with high soil salinity wooden bases quickly deteriorated. The masters, taking this factor into account, made bases separately, thus making sure that they would be able to replace them eventually. For the same reason one may often find stone column bases.
When decorating beam structures, great import was given to a figured wooden lalin bolster that served as a completing element of a column, supporting and reducing baulk bending. These bolster beams were decorated with a complicated and exquisite profiled carving called kuchkor-shokh. The carving ornament fitted the outlines of a rectangular beam, giving it a lightened form. Doors and blinds were also decorated with carving. Carved doors stand out in the virtuosity and multi-plane-ness of their pattern. On the whole, dftcor composition consisted of differently shaped large medallions, inside which stylized vegetable motifs were placed.
Progressive trends implemented in a Khiva dwelling were broadly replicated in monumental architecture when quarter mosques and khan’s palaces were built. Many quarter mosques adopted the layout base of a yard with ong- and ters-aivan. Kunya-Ark and Tash-Khauli palace structures are interesting in their layout, composition and decorative finishing that includes all kinds of decorative art. Their dft-cor is a vivid manifestation of the requirements of palace ceremonial procedures and lifestyle of nobility.
The structure of the Tash-Khauli palace premises is extremely simple. Flat beam and girder floor was used everywhere. Cob walls offered good resistance to weather. Even semi-portal aivans do not have the usual hemispheric domes. Despite seemingly primitive structures, the building in general distinguishes itself not only by well-considered layout solutions, simplicity and freedom in positioning spacious rooms and striking system of loggias and aivans, but also by a very cultured interpretation of spatial masses. Even corridors connecting ancillary premises are spacious, lightweight and, most importantly, airy, which is very unlike the usual architectural devices of late medieval period. Here the architects widely employed upper side light that flows into the room because of the difference in floor levels. Living rooms in the Tash-Khauli palace feature painted wood and gypsum and wood-carving. Painted board ceilings (pushish) and bars between boards (khul-patyk) can be found here only in palaces and mosques. Painting diicor consists of vegetable elements; it is austere and laconic, and its palette is reserved.
Khiva School is also characterized by a specific majolica painting that consists of a stylized vegetable pattern in combination with geometric designs. The colours are white, ultramarine and turquoise.
Fergana School. Geographical location of Fergana Valley locked by mountain ridges on the south and north helped it to preserve its political autonomy. Natural bounty and cultural connections facilitated the development of one of the interesting seats of culture here.
Specificity of Fergana architectural art school is manifested in the large size of a residential land lot, liberal and diverse house layout, and the presence of gardens.
Fergana home is based on a central cell and two side rooms with an avian in front of them; distinctive features of the avian are Venetian mesh blinds, large covered yard with a lamppost in the centre, supported by four wooden columns called kashgarcha. House layout with a gallery along its fa3ade, symmetrical positioning of rooms on either side of a semi-open room, lightweight expandable walls and southward orientation — these are typical features of a Fergana dwelling.
Due to a significant precipitation in the region Fergana home is solid in structure, all four walls are 60-70 cm thick, but the presence of deep niches basically reduces the walls to the thickness of a single-row framework. On the interior, room walls are traditionally divided horizontally into three sections, and their surface is filled with niches that have spatial rigidity and resist soil quaking, as the valley is a seismically active region. Powerful wall structure is also essential for supporting heavy roof. Niches are divided into cells of different size, and smooth panels between them are rare. Walls are decorated with gypsum carving and painting.
Fergana School is characterized with diversity in plafond assembling and the fitting of ceiling surface with beams covered with vassa planks richly decorated with carving and vegetable painting.
Compared to artistic decoration of living rooms, ornamentation of a mekhmonkhona in in Fergana was not given much attention.
Pesh-aivan in front of a southern fa3ade offers protection from the sun in summer and does not hinder insolation in winter. Sometimes the centrepiece of a plafond on the avian ceiling, kaivan, is raised higher and occupies a large square richly decorated with geometrical patterns, at the centre of which there is a little dome, khauzak. There are many different forms of kaivan.
Characteristic of a Fergana interior is a fireplace called muri, which is not used in other regions of Uzbekistan. In rich homes these fireplaces are interestingly decorated in three different ways: domed — gumbazli; Kashgar style — kashgarcha; and Tatar style -nugaicha.
Segmentation of a land lot into ichkari, tashkari and ancillary yard was observed only in the homes of well-to-do people.
Major dwelling structures — palaces — are based on the same planning methods; they have open yards or several yards with a residential group of buildings and aivans in each of them. A vivid example of that are a countryside khan’s palace in Aim village and the Kokand palace of Khu-doyar-khan.
A common characteristic feature of a medieval dwelling is its insularity. Architectural layout of Central Asian urban dwelling provided for a combination of closed and open spaces, galleries and aivans — all in harmonious unity with one another in terms of their spatial volume. As a rule, the method used was to build living premises around an open yard. In every epoch and in every region of Uzbekistan, homes had their local peculiarities determined by historical traditions, natural and climatic conditions, daily life routine and artistic tastes. In every region people developed different variants of construction, following a similar layout of positioning living and ancillary premises around an inner yard.