The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Classification by plan type


Although each han differs in its layout, they all belong to one of 4 major plan types:

 

1. Hans with a covered section and an open courtyard: the covered with courtyard plan (COC)
Hans of this plan type consist of two parts: an open courtyard and a covered section behind it. This is the most frequent type and is often referred to as the "classical scheme" of Anatolian hans. The covered section is referred to as a "hall", and in Turkish is known as the kişlik, or "winter section".
 

This plan type can be further divided into two subcategories:

1) hans where the covered section and the courtyard have the same width, and with the hall having generally three aisles running perpendicular (lengthwise) to the back wall

2) hans where the courtyard is wider than the covered section, and with the hall generally having one large middle aisle and two side aisles.
 

Although the the hall and the courtyard can be of equal width, the hall is generally narrower than the courtyard. This covered section has a varying number of vaults, laying parallel or perpendicular to the entry door and back wall. The covered section can contain a lantern dome in the center of the vaulting to admit light. The courtyard is usually arcaded on the sides, with a vaulting system supported by piers, and can have one or two rows of cells. There can also be 1 to 4 iwans in the courtyard. The main entry to the han is often comprised of an elaborate stalactite portal with an entry vestibule section. In addition, the entry to the covered section can also consist of a prominent portal, often decorated with stalactites. Lastly, the plan can comprise a small cubed mosque ("kiosk mescit" in Turkish) in the center of the courtyard, raised up on 4 piers.

2. Hans with a covered section only: the covered plan (C)
This plan type consists of a closed, covered section (the hall) with no courtyard in front of it. This is not really a separate type, but a normal reduction in form of the covered section-courtyard plan. This type of han was used primarily in winter and are generally modest in size. The vaulting system is supported by piers, and many of the halls contain a lantern dome in the center of the vaulting to admit light. Hans with this plan usually have halls with 3 aisles, in one or two directions. As the hans of this group have all lost their inscription plaques (except the Şarafsa), dating is carried out by stylistic comparison.

3. Hans with a courtyard surrounded by cells: the open-courtyard plan (OC)
This type of han consists of an open courtyard, surrounded on all four sides by open arcades. These hans were used primarily in the summer. They can have one or two rows of cells surrounding the courtyard, and can include a narrow covered section to the rear. This type is fairly rare.

4. Hans with a concentric plan (CON)
An evolved building type, this plan integrates the courtyard and the cells of the covered section. In this plan, the cell chambers of the covered section are laid out concentrically around an inner courtyard. The chambers were vaulted. This type is fairly rare.
 

 

The Classification system proposed by Friedrich Sarre and Kurt Erdmann

 

The basis for the classification system above was based on the work of the Islamic art historian Kurt Erdmann, who developed a classification system for hans in his master work Das Anatolische Karavansaray des 13. Jahrhunderts, published in 1961. He distinguishes 2 main types, which depend on the presence or absence of a courtyard. He added a third plan type, the open courtyard surrounded by cells. The building typology for hans has traditionally followed this classification system established by Erdmann. Other scholars have since added a fourth category, the concentric plan. 

 

The three classification types of Erdmann are thus:

His classification criteria further included the relationship between the size of the closed section and the courtyard, and the number and direction of the vaults in the closed section. He reasoned that hans could be dated by the relationship of the width of the closed section and the courtyard. He postulated that if the two are equal, the han dates to the early 13th c., and if the courtyard is wider than the closed section, it dates from 1230-1240.

 

Exact dating of hans is not always possible, as inscription plaques are missing or were never installed. For hans where the inscription plaque is unavailable, a comparison with a dated han with similar plan type has traditionally been used to establish a date.

 

Post-Erdmann research and the "Shelter" typology classification system

There are numerous exceptions to the general classification scheme proposed by Erdmann. Research has been done over the past 30 years which brings new light to the function of hans. Erdmann's classification system is being revisited by modern scholars, notably A. T. Yavuz. Ms. Yavuz presents a solid argument for the rejection of Kurt Erdmann's classification system. She believes that using the courtyard as the deciding feature of typology is questionable, and that the plan alone is not pertinent for dating purposes. She proposes a criteria based on the functional analysis of the concept of shelter. One can question the reasoning behind Erdmann's assumption that hans could be dated by the relationship of the width of the closed section and the courtyard. He postulated that if the two are equal, the han dates to the early 13th c., if the courtyard is wider than the closed section, it dates from 1230-1240. Unfortunately, there is no justification for this assumption. Since the publication of Erdmann's work in 1961, research has been conducted on individual hans, much of which has been the subject of doctoral theses. This research has revealed new information concerning construction techniques and water systems, and has led to a new classification based on analysis by function. Yavuz believes that function drove the design concept, and that this main function was to provide safety and shelter. She believes that the courtyard should not be the starting point or the nucleus for the design. She notes that the presence of a construction joint between the closed section and the courtyard demonstrates that construction began with the closed section. The analysis of the functions of hans has led to her plan typology of "Shelter Only Hans" and "Hans with Shelter and Services". Such a functional analysis shifts the emphasis from the courtyard to the shelter function, whether the plan be closed or semi-open. Relative to this "with or without services" typology, Yavuz proposes two design schemes for the plan organization of the service spaces: 1) the spaces are arranged in an additive fashion, either grouped at the entry or placed along the courtyard one next to the other as needed (Sultan Han Aksaray, Ak, Sari, Kirkgöz, Kargi, Ağzikara Han) or 2) the spaces are arranged in 1-3 rings radiating concentrically around an open courtyard (Esab-i Keyf, Alara).

 

Her argument that hans were designed to respond to service needs is solid, and Erdmann himself would probably not disagree with such an approach. This plan typology also seeks to remove the need for a hypothesis about tracing the origins of the han, and removes the importance of the presence or absence courtyard as the central design element. That hans were built driven by service needs seems to be evident, yet this typology does not offer a tool for dating of hans.

 

Despite the questioning of Erdmann's typology by current researchers such as Yavuz, his typology remains a useful organizational scheme for understanding the architecture of hans, especially for those new to their study. For this reason, Erdmann's typology will be used in describing the hans on this website.

 

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Catalog of hans as per each of Erdmann's 4 design plan types
 

HANS WITH A COVERED SECTION AND AN OPEN COURTYARD (COC)


   1. With covered section and courtyard of the same width        

        Covered section with parallel aisles running perpendicular to the rear wall

            -Covered section with 2 parallel aisles

                    Kargi

            -Covered section with 3 parallel aisles
                with 4 vaults:
                      Eli-Kesik

                with 5 vaults:

                      Altinapa

                      Dokuzun

                with 6 vaults:

                      Kuruçeşme

                      Argit

 

         

        Covered section with a middle aisle and side aisles running parallel to the back wall

            -With one row of vaults in each aisle                               
                  with 5 vaults:

                      Akbaş

            -With two rows of vaults in each aisle

                  with 5 vaults:

                      Dolay


  2. With covered section smaller than courtyard        

        Covered section with aisles running parallel to the rear wall

            -Covered section with 3 parallel aisles

                  with 4 vaults:

                      Ak

                  with 5 vaults:

                      Ertokuş

                      Tahtoba

                      Durak

                  with 6 vaults: 

                      Kuruçeşme

                      Çakalli

                      Kadin

                      Hekim

                      Kesikköprü

      -Covered section with 5 parallel aisles
              with 6 vaults:
                  Çardak

 

  Covered section with a middle aisle and side aisles
          -with one row of vaults in each side aisle
              with 6 vaults:
                  Pazar
          -with two rows of cross vaults in each side aisle
              with 5 vaults:
                  Horozlu
                  Susuz
                  Sari Avanos
                  Cimcimli
                  Çay
              with 6 vaults:
                  Ağzikara
                  Zazadin
              with 7 vaults:
                  Alay
                  Sultan Han Kayseri
                  Incir
                  Karatay
                  Eğridir (?)
              with 8 vaults:
                  Obruk
              with 9 vaults:
                  Sultan Han Aksaray

HANS WITH COVERED SECTION ONLY (NO COURTYARD) (C)
   

   Covered section with aisles running parallel to the rear wall
    -Covered section with 3 parallel aisles
              with 4 vaults:

                   Kuru
              with 5 vaults:
                  Deve

                  Eğret

                  Çiftlik

                  Ezinepazar (?)

 

  Covered section with a middle aisle and side aisles
    -with two rows of vaults in each aisle
              with 7 vaults:
                  Öresin

   

 One large central aisle
                  Şarafsa

 

 

 

HANS WITH AN OPEN COURTYARD SURROUNDED BY CELLS (NO COVERED SECTION) (OC)
             

        Evdir  

        Kirkgöz
        Alara
        Eshab-I Keyf
 


 

 

HANS WITH A CONCENTRIC PLAN       

 

        Alara
        Tercan

 

 

 

 

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