The wealth, riches, and diversities of influences of the various cultures and their merging with the domestic inheritance in our territories were fully expressed in the characteristics of a traditional Bosnian house, particularly the solutions it offered as an early big housing complex.
Those solutions find its deep roots in the traditional and inherited housing culture, but at the same time, they bear in themselves the elements of the Ottoman houses from the wide areas of Anatolia.
The feudal families of the medieval Bosnia used to dwell in the fortified towns, really in narrow multi-storey stone castles with loopholes. In certain cases a wooden watchtower was extended to the top, used for defence and viewing. Due to security concerns, those castles used to have an entrance on the first floor, where ladders or mobile stairs were utilized to claim there. These castles were always the best-defended part of the old town. A cellar which sometimes served as a jail facility also had a vaulted stone construction (ćemer), as well as one last floor under the watchtower (čatma).
Because of the lack of space and housing discomforts, next to these forts were palaces used for dwelling. Every room in a palace had a chimney, the name for a room of this sort then stemming from the word for “chimney” during the Ottoman Empire. A castle with chimneys was encircled by a wall, and in the yard there was a well. These palaces were the seats of military commanders, captains, and landowners, and they normally used to serve as an “outing house” in the summer months.
In the middle of the 20th century there used to be 145 castles in 115 places throughout Bosnia. The most famous ones are the castles and palaces of certain landowners and beys' families such as: Ali-paša Rizvanbegović at Trebižat, Fadil Pašić at Dobrinja near Sarajevo and at Bijela (Brčko), Sulejman Pašić at Bugojno, the Čurčićs at Koševo in Sarajevo, the Svrzos in Sarajevo, the Čengićs at Rataji and Ustikolina, Rustem Pašić at Bugojno, the Kulenovićs at Kulen Vakuf, Mustaj-beg Babić in Sarajevo.
Forty-five villages and hamlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina bear the name Kula; there exist twelve Kulas/Kulinas and thirty-five under the name Odžak or Odžaci.
The symbiosis of castles and chimneys, as dual housing systems where a castle assured a defence and a palace a comfortable dwelling, served later as a leading concept in the creation of city housing complexes. There also appear two units in the same object, but with a different purpose and a different form.
By establishing authority of the Ottomans, social changes arose that conditioned a different way of living and different norms that had to be obeyed, subsequently calling for a different way of organization of a residential dwelling. The acceptance of the Islam obviously was a factor that influenced the housing culture. First of all, it appealed to the status of a woman in the society and in a family as defined by Moslem laws. Because of that, a concept of a castle and palace was transformed into the concept of the male and the female part of a house, or, haremluk and selamluk- really, public and private part. Along with such a solution, a need for the maintenance of the home and personal hygiene was also imposed, and more or less in every room baths were built - hamamdžiks, which provided a place for washing before a prayer (abdesluk).
Along with the phenomenon of the dual housing system, strong influence of the traditional ethnic construction was also present. It is reflected, first of all, in the placement of an open hearth in the middle of a house, so that in some parts this space is called a "house", according to the established medieval tradition. A "house" is really a kitchen with an open hearth, and next to it, in most cases is a room where water is kept in pails, "water-storage", also part of the inherited concept. In the Ottoman period a "house" was called a kitchen ("matbah" - kitchen in Arabic) and it had a significant place in the whole system. Here a fire was always kept unextinguished, in the aim of maintaining the continuity of a family life. A kitchen was usually on the ground floor and then its height stretches through two floors (dimluk), or it’s on the last floor under the roof. In Ottoman houses, the kitchen is always on the ground floor without the two floors (dimluk).
A "house" with the water-storage as an inherited element and dualism of castle and palace, the concept of the female part (haremluk) and male part (selamluk) as an Ottoman influence, will give different housing solutions throughout Bosnia depending on the status and the position of the owner in the social structure of that time and its inherent tendencies.
Through analysis of the different types of the Bosnian house, two basic dispositions are observed: symmetrical and asymmetrical disposition. The first one displays influences from the authentic Ottoman dwelling culture, and the other represents interpretations of those influences, in our circumstances, coupled with a strong domestic tradition.
Castles were built according to the first system, or really the residential palaces of the Bosnian regents, as well as seraglios, and the palaces of the Bosnian beys. The symmetrical solutions of the single housing objects are most often seen with houses in South Serbia and Macedonia. In Bosnia they can be still found at Foča and Banja Luka. In these regions a new specificity appears: the kitchen- or a "house" with the hearth, is placed on the floor in this instance. This room is without a ceiling; it is directly under the roof, where there is an opening.
Castles had an Ottoman symmetrical concept. Both parts- private (haremluk) and residential part (selamluk), had halls (hajat) on the ground floor and verandas on the upper floors, around which the rooms were arranged. There are preserved documents about Vali's palaces at Travnik and at Banja Luka that bear witness to how these constructions were built and arranged.
Every part, both male and female, developed its disposition separately. Therefore on the ground-floor of the male (selamluk) and female (haremluk) parts, rooms are arranged around the central hall (hajat) which is paved with stones; from there a one-arm wooden stair-case leads to the next floor. In the male part (selamluk), on the ground-floor, there is a barroom (kahveodžak) for traditional preparing of coffee, and in the female part (haremluk) there is a kitchen. A thick wall separates both parts with its whole width, although between the parts there is a connecting chamber both on the ground floor and on the floors. The central rooms of the floor really represent the verandas around which the rooms are arranged.
The other type of the symmetrical complexes is the bey-seraglios. They consist of the main object, a symmetrical disposition, which is connected by a wooden bridge (mabejna) to a summer residence (mutvak) where there is a kitchen with an open hearth - a "house" and the water-storage.
The connection between these parts was created at the level of the floor, while on the ground-floor they exist as separated “wholes”. Separate roofs cover both objects. On the ground floor of the main object there is a male part of the house with a bar-room (kahveodžak) and a special entrance for the male visitors. On the ground floor of the summer residence (mutvak) there is a storehouse and a stable. So, this object bears all the elements of the traditional but also the Ottoman elements of the main house. The narrow forged wooden bridge (mabejna or mabejin) - in some regions called "kubura" (Banja Luka) or "araluk" (Serbia), serves as a “mechanical” connection between these two systems. Around this narrow wooden bridge (mabejna) in the main house live and work the servants. The ground floor is made of stone and has got loopholes, which reminds of medieval castles. This is usually the case with complexes that were built in the vicinity of the castles (serhat) (examples: bey- seraglio of the Kapetanovićs - Bešlagićs and the Ibrahimovićs from Banja Luka).
The total composition of the complex of Svrzo's House- its space and architectural structures, which actually really has three separate “wholes”, points to a strong connection with these mentioned roots of origin. In accordance with the concept and disposition of its structure, one could assume that these wholes originated through stages, however, always with a conceived and planned purpose. This purpose remains in its function to serve for the integrity of the whole solution, although it took about hundred years for this solution to be completely realized.
The first “whole” in Svrzo’s house consists of the main house with the ground-floor and floor, where the male part (selamluk) makes an "ahar" with an enclosed porch, and a female part makes a summer residence (mutvak) with storehouses- a kitchen or a summer residence (mutvak) where there was an open hearth. Nowadays, in that place one can find a small garden, either created to be used as a summer residence (mutvak) or created by the restoration interventions when the authentic original kitchen was destroyed.
The male (selamluk) and female (haremluk) parts, although strongly separated, were still connected in two places in Svrzo’s house. The first connection is a narrow dark hall (mabejna), originated on the model of a wooden bridge of a seraglio; the other connection was based on the model of a closet (čekme-dolaf). There was a devised way of delivering food from the summer residence (mutvak) into the male part (selamluk)- by turning a dining-table in the wall, which separated the two parts, and also served to protect female members of the house from the glances of male visitors.
The central place of the complex includes females’ yard around which there were arranged these facilities: the main house with the female part (haremluk) and male part (selamluk), and the female quarter with a big parlour (halvat). That is a representative parlour in the nature that by a massive wall closes and protects from the male part (selamluk).
Through their function and communication, and also with the views they provided, all these rooms were oriented toward the yard.
Such a kind of solution has got its deep roots in Arabic, but also is Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hellenistic houses, where everything was oriented toward the yard, which was the central part of the complex.
By analysis of the disposition of the Svrzo's House, one notices a quite suggestive asymmetry of the main house, as well as of the whole composition. It is reflected in an intention to realize the best possible economic function on the ground floor without necessarily adhering to any particular form. The spaces are arranged according to the need, completed and placed simply in a most functional way for the household. The position of the storehouses, stable and summer residence (mutvak) is a result of this “freed” relationship to space.
There was a tendency to create from the floors views on the garden, street and the yard. As a consequence the veranda has no central place in the disposition of the house, as is the case with symmetrical Ottoman houses; Instead, in Svrzo’s house the veranda stretches along the whole width of the object, not only along the female part of the house (haremluk) but also along the male part (selamluk). With the female quarter it transforms itself into the balcony and opens toward the female yard. The wooden posts that support it are ornamented with small threads of flowers (akšamčići), which combined with moonlight’s glow, transform the balcony into the most beautiful corner of this part of the house. The same also happens with the veranda of the male part of the house (selamluk) which also follows the disposition asymmetrically and whose balcony makes safe the visual contacts with the male yard.
For the other “whole”- the female quarter or the other female part of the house (haremluk), due to its position in the complex and also due to its complete isolation from the main house, one could assume that it was built later. It seems that it was built for the needs of the family Glođos. Due to its status in the former social life in Sarajevo, the family looked for a particularly great space for receptions of female visitors during periods for weddings, religious rituals or ceremonies (hatma or mevlud).
However, the position of the summer residence (mutvak) - the kitchen, points out to the possibility that this part was built at the same time when the main part was built. Its disposition is also asymmetrical, with a big female room, richly equipped and decorated.
The male quarter (selamluk) was probably the last that was built. It served as guest quarters (musarfirhana) for the reception of male visitors with a room and an adjacent bar-room (kahveodžak).
With its beauty and proportions, this Bosnian House distinguishes itself, first of all, by a humanistic approach to the nature, which was assured in its every segment. Synthesis of the two cultures, both the inherited/traditional and the Ottoman culture, were realized. The essence of the traditional house with a hearth further remains the heart of the house, and veranda and balcony, elements of the Ottoman culture, have become its soul.
The peculiarity of this solution, however, and of similar beys' complexes, lies in the stressed separations of each element (beginning from the wall of the yard, storehouses, summer residences (mutvak), male and female parts of the house, verandas and balconies), where each of the elements distinguishes itself by its individuality but at the same time connects itself into a unique composition- a “whole”. It is the veranda remnants, corners and balconies (kamerije) that emphasize this general excitement. Here one can find a great number of the windows that along with the cubic form of the object, white façade and deep eaves, and the insured connection of the house with the yard and garden, give main characteristics to this structure. (The houses of Alija Đerzelez and Skopljak in Sarajevo, the housing complex of the Rizvanbegovićs, Begovina, at Stolac, Kajtaz and Biščević's house in Mostar).
The successful symbiosis of these separated wholes- the main house, summer female and male parts of the house (haremluk and selamluk) with special yards, is the beauty of this house. These parts, through their position and relation of their dimensions, create a mutual connection, both naturally and logically. The game of empty and full volumes creates dynamics of the object and the riches of windows and extensions gives a geometrical composition to the shadows on the white walls. All these elements mutually and tamely permeate each other, as a result placing a man into the centre and taking him as a measure.
Thanks to its adaptability, validity, and practicality, the Bosnian House has survived despite all the changes that occurred in this region through the centuries. With its survival and existence this House made the preservation of our national identity easier.