As the nucleus of private space, the house was a fundamental unit of the urban structure and an imprint of wider society.
Within the urban structure, as the nucleus of private space, the house tends to reflect the social status of its owner. In traditional Arab and Ottoman cities, houses were orientated inwards and did not project anything in particular about their inhabitants onto the streets. Generally speaking, domestic dwellings were built out of sun-dried or baked bricks of mostly uniform organic colours, and their height was restricted to between one and four storeys; coloured and decorated glazed tiles, carved stucco and ornamental panels were used to decorate the façade and to adorn the all-important inner courtyard, which was used for communal socialising, relaxation, fresh air and ventilation and as a light source.
In the 19th century, aimed at the more affluent among Arab and Ottoman societies and in order to accommodate European communities, taller buildings or Western-type apartment blocks were built using new construction methods and materials. These dwellings introduced elements of European architecture and planning, such as wider streets, with buildings that projected a more street-based presence and with greater attention paid to the appearance of the façade, but with vertical windows and mashrabiyya
still arranged in order to ventilate the interior.