Traditional Turkish houses - a wooden house with enclosed balcony in Inebolu, Kastamonu province of Black Sea area

Features that Make Traditional Turkish Houses So Distinctive

The magnificence of the Topkapi Palace, the majesty of the Suleymaniye mosque and the Sultan Ahmet complex in Istanbul all stand testament to the engineering and architectural skills of the Ottomans. Yet there is nothing particularly grand about the traditional Turkish houses. Aside from basic structures in poor, rural areas, the houses of the ordinary […]

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Crocheted toran door hanging in Solapur, Maharashta

Bless Your House with Indian Door Hangings

Indian households love to hang decorations over their front doors, and at their windows, too. Called toran, these Indian door hangings bring good fortune to the house and everyone in it, including visitors. The word toran comes from the Sanskrit for “archway” or “gateway”, and in architecture refers to Buddhist temple entrances composed of two

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Round-cornered building in Kowloon, Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s round-cornered buildings

Round the Bend I have been compiling on Hong Kong’s characteristic round-cornered buildings for years. Sometimes I’d go out with a plan to photograph specific buildings, other times I’d stumble across one while out and about (and infuriate companions as I’d shout “hang on a mo… need to get my phone out…”). But that’s where

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Whitewashed house with blue windows on a sea-captain's mansion in Spetses

Elegant Sea-captains’ Mansions Evoke Memories of Maritime Power

It seems odd to us now, when most people visit Greek islands precisely because of the sea – to swim in, sail on or just gaze at – but centuries ago many Greek islanders turned their backs on the sea. They were escaping bloodthirsty pirates, power-hungry invaders and draconian rulers. The island of Spetses, however,

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India's window chajja, shown on houses in the French quarter of Pondicherry

Rain or Shine – India’s Window Chajja Have You Covered

India’s window chajja help keep you cool in summer and dry in the rainy season. They are projections above windows, and range from simple concrete blocks, to striped plastic coverings to tiled mini-roofs to carved wooden masterpieces. Chajja is also a glorious word in its own right! In Urdu it means “brim” and can also

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Fabric of the City – Hong Kong Market Under Threat

Is this famous Hong Kong market under threat? Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar has had a curse of demolition hanging over it for several years now. But so far it seems to be hanging on – though we could say “hanging by a thread”. When I was a kid in the 1950s and early 60s,

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Sgraffito featuring local motifs in Pyrgi village, Chios island, Greece

Chios Mastic Villages: medieval, mysterious and designed to confuse!

If the common impression of a Greek village is a whitewashed tumble of cubic houses clustered beneath the protective shadow of a hilltop castle, then the Chios mastic villages present a different picture altogether. The three settlements of Pyrgi, Mesta and Olympi, in the southwestern corner of Chios island in the northeast Aegean, are collectively known

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Panoramic view of the stately neoclassical mansions of Ermoupoli

The Stately Neoclassical Mansions of Ermoupoli

Monumental façades, marble pediments, balustraded balconies, mythical scenes painted on ceilings… The neoclassical mansions of Ermoupoli on the Greek island of Syros, are about as far from the tiny, sugar-cube houses so redolent of Greece as you can get. Along with its marble-paved streets, its imposing town hall and Italianate theatre, Ermoupoli exudes an air very

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