Vernacular architecture


Up to this day, we can still see in the area of Bohemian Switzerland as well as in the entire Šluknov Spur territory a number of well-preserved residential houses, grain mills,  sawmills, schools, barns as well as other buildings which bear witness to the history of the settlement of the region. The uniqueness of these structures was expressed not only by the declaration of a rural historical preserve in Vysoká Lípa, Kamenická Stráň and Dlouhý Důl, but also by the proposal for the inclusion of the “Country of Semi-timbered Houses” (North Bohemia, Upper Lusatia and Lower Silesia) in the UNESCO list.

The appearance of the local houses is determined by the position of the region at the meeting point of large European areas folk architecture. The semi-timbered house combines two traditional techniques of vernacular architecture - the timbered structure, typical for Eastern Europe, and the half-timbered structure, typical for Western Europe. Where these two major traditional techniques met, a house evolved with the ground floor timbered or partially made of brick, and with the upper floor half-timbered (the house frequently found in North Bohemia feature a timbered upper floor, which is unique in the European context).

The timbered or half-timbered upper floor is closely connected with the existence of the timber subframe. The subframe (“Umgebinde” in German) is a complex wooden structure built along the ground floor walls and carrying the weight of the roof or of the upper floor. That is why the timbered walls of the ground floor room do not carry an excessive load, which reduces the risk of their collapse.

The traditional roofing consisted of wooden shingles while slate started to be used during the 19th century and its application was gradually extended to decorative cladding of the gables and walls. The use of burnt roof tiles dates back to the late 19th century.

Unfortunately, a number of these houses were destroyed after 1945 in connection with the expulsion of the local inhabitants of German descent. The approximately 1,500 houses preserved in nine villages bordering on the Bohemian Switzerland National Park are now gradually being restored.

Detailed information about and a number of beautiful images of vernacular architecture, farm houses as well as smaller religions buildings can be found in the publication Lidové památky Českého Švýcarska written by Natalie Belisová and published in early 2006.

The electronic database of semi-timbered houses in Bohemian Switzerland can be viewed here.