Aquitaine Maisons Bearnaises

Béarn is an area located in the south of Aquitaine, France. Located on the plains next to the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. Along with the three Basque provinces of Soule, Lower Navarra and Labourd, it forms the current department of the Pyrenees-Atlantiques.


The classic maison béarnaise, is similar to the etxe, the typical Basque house. A classic Bearnaise house clearly depicts the identity of the family who occupy it. Social “hierarchy” influences the type of Bearnaise house and as a result there is not a single variety of a béarnaise house. Most maisons béarnaises that still exist today date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Before that date, bearnaise houses were predominantly built out of wood and cob with thatch or wooden roofing. Only from the 18th century did they start to be constructed of stone, pebbles, tile and slate. Béarn is a really varied landscape, composed of valleys, mountains, farmland and woodland. This variety is reflected in the property styles present throughout the region since the Middle Ages. As in the other French regions, houses were made with the locally available materials, and the shape and style depended to a certain extent on the local climate and the wealth of the owner.


Walls

One building technique that is typical of a maison béarnaise is the use of pebbles in the construction of exterior walls. Many walls are built of pebbles combined with cob / mortar mix. The pebbles are laid out as follows:

A wall made of pebbles following a bracken structure is evidence of finest craftmanshift, due to the complex nature and expense of its contructions. Indeed, even restoring a house nowadays is expensive, so for these generally modest farmers' families, the house was a significant investment.
Obviously, the pebbles that are displayed on the outside are often the most beautiful and uniformly shaped pebbles used in the construction of a wall. The structure of a typical pebble wall was as follows: Larger stones were regularly inserted into the wall to ensure good stability. They are inserted perfectly horizontal to help strenghten the walls, this was more important because pebble walls are often sensitive to high humidity.


Roofing


The roofs are often pitched at around 45/50 degrees. This is due to the due to significant rainfall coming in off the Atlantic ocean and due to the need for a large attic and storage room. The attic room is an additional feature that is typical of these Aquitaine houses. The roofs differ considerably from those found on typical maisons landaises and Basque country houses. The 45/50 degrees pitch of the roof is also necessary to thatch the roofs. Thatch is a complex roof covering, that offers a complex and westher resistant covering. It is however a more expensive option due to the specialist resources, craftmanship and significant amount of labour used.



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