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Folk architecture in Somogy

Somogy County is ethnographically divided into four regions, which have different environmental characteristics and as a consequence, different architectural traditions. These regions are Inner Somogy, Outer Somogy, the Drava region, and the Zselic Hills.

  • Until the 18th century the inhabitants of the forest-rich county mainly used wood for construction. However, towards the end of the century, laws were enacted to restrict the serfs’ access to lumber, which resulted in the spread of building techniques less reliant on wood
  • Due to the lack of adequate building material, stone constructions were practically non-existent in the villages of Somogy. The houses along the Drava were mainly built from loam bricks, which is dried loam mixed with plant fibres. In other parts of the county the rammed earth technique became widespread, which involves the ramming and then drying of mud between two horizontal planks. The Zselic has a long-standing heritage of wood construction, the buildings are often decorated with carved front and side porches.
  • A typical Somogy building, the ‘footed-house’, originates from this period as well. The base (a.k.a. the foot) of the house is provided by horizontal beams fixed together, which hold vertical beams made from rammed earth supporting the walls.
  • People in Outer and Inner Somogy built purlin roofs, which involves the laying of a strong beam along the ridge, kept in place by wooden pillars on both ends. However, south of the Csurgó-Nagyatád-Kaposvár line, this construction method is not present at all.
  • Most roofs in Somogy and parts of the neighbouring counties (Zala and Tolna) feature a downward looking, triangle shaped end on both sides. These are called truncated roofs, because this part cannot reach the edge of the roof and thus does not cover the façade.
  • The houses were traditionally covered with thatched roofs, using bundles of unbroken rye straw. In the wetlands alongside the Drava and Lake Balaton, reeds were also used for this purpose.
  • Inner Somogy houses consist of three rooms with two or three entrances, so each room can be accessed from the yard independently. This is the so-called Western Transdanubian type. In other parts of the county there are some one-entrance, Great Plain type houses as well. In these houses the kitchen has the main entrance, and this opening allows access to further rooms.
  • Typically, the first street-facing room was used as a so-called clean room (traditionally maintained for guests or sick people), followed by the kitchen, another room, and finally the pantry, with additional farm buildings such as sheds, storages, and barns in the back.
  • From the 19th century on, the chimneyless smoky kitchen came in fashion in Inner Somogy, while south of the Zselic smoke-capturing kitchens without attics were mostly built. In the latter, a vaulted ceiling above the stove collected the smoke and led it into the chimney. In Outer Somogy the so-called free chimney solution was also used.
  • Throughout the whole county, the furnace was built in the kitchen. In other parts of Transdanubia, especially along the Danube, the furnace was often located in the living room. In South Somogy, hemispherical furnaces were built, and in the north, angular types became popular.
  • The villages along the Drava that are populated by South Slavs represent a peculiar and strongly conservative branch of the architecture of the county. The development of the houses was strikingly similar to that of the Hungarian peasant houses, but the use of wood and the smoky kitchen survived here the longest.
  • The houses were built by collective action – relatives, friends and neighbours helped each other. Specialists were only needed for certain carpentry works, all other tasks could be done by themselves. After 2-3 weeks of construction, a house with rammed earth walls and a thatched roof was ready to be moved into.
  • The settlements of Somogy were mainly one-street villages, with the houses standing on both sides of the main road, facing each other. In the so-called burgage plots, houses were facing the road with farm buildings built behind them.