A yurt is a portable, felt covered, wood lattice-framed dwelling structure used by nomads and others in the steppes and cities of Central Asia. The very word yurt is originally from the Turkic word that means “dwelling place” in the sense of “homeland”. Yurts are centuries old and they are thought to have originated in Mongolia and what is now Turkey, Northern Iran and Afghanistan, by nomadic tribes.
Yurt Info speaks of the origins of the yurt, otherwise known as the ger:
Trees were scarce, so the herders drew from their animals to create shelter. They layered sheep’s wool, sprinkled it with water and worked it into felted mats.Roof struts made from saplings were slipped into a central wooden ring, then tied to the top of circular lattice walls and covered with the felted mats. The herders tied the felt to the roof and walls with ropes and belts made from animal hair. In the winter extra mats were added for warmth; in the summer fewer layers were used. Sections could be raised or even completely removed in hot weather to allow for airflow through the shelter.
The original word for “nomad” came from a word for felt, making the nomads “felt people”. These felt people called their circular, lattice-walled shelters “home. It was a shelter that enabled them to live sustainably in the harshest of climates, to move with their herds, to live in tribal communities and raise their families century upon century in a manner that was simple yet comfortable and in balance with the world around them.
For Mongolians, the ger is more than their traveling shelter on the Asian steppes; it is their centering point in a moving universe. The internal floor plan of the ger is based on the four directions, much like the Native American Medicine Wheel or the Navajo hogan. The door always opens to the south. Opposite the door, sacred space is to the North. If the family is Buddhist, this is where the altar sits. It is also the place of the seat of honor for guests.
The circularity of the yurt is perfect for nomadic uses. The circle encompasses the greatest space possible internally for the amount of materials used. At the same time, the circular shape leaves the least amount of exterior surface exposed to the elements (thus making it more efficient to heat) and leaves fewer surfaces exposed to wind, which very naturally moves around it since there are no corners.
When North Americans use the term “yurt”, they are referring, not to the Central Asian ger, but to a version made from modern materials, including steel aircraft cable and architectural fabrics. Behind the development of this new form of shelter lies a story of visionary designers and a movement committed to principles of simplicity and sustainability. And I’ve found that many of them can be very beautiful.
One of my favorite companies is a yurt to go company. They are literally making “tent” yurts that can be set up by two people in about an hour…a great idea for:
Check out these yurt images and tell me that you don’t think they are a Little Bit of Beauty™! Now tell me…could you see yourself in one? And how?
For more information on Yurts to vacation in or to buy, check these out:
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