Tibet, a vast region, is dotted with various forms of folk residential buildings. These traditional Tibet houses in different regions present the traditional Tibet architecture features, eg, the Stone Houses at the valley of South Tibet, the tent in North Tibet, timber-framed buildings at the forest zone of Yarlung Zangbo River, and Nagri Plateau’s cave dwelling, which all have strong ethnic characteristics and regional colors.
Architecture Characteristics in North Tibet – Tent
In North Tibet which is pastoral areas, tent is the most common and oldest form of living. According to differences between grazing mode and seasons, there are winter tents and summer tents.
Winter tents are generally made of wooden sticks, covered with felt made of cow hair, which can withstand the impact of snow and snow on the plateau without leakage.
Summer tents is a kind of lightweight tents made of self-cloth and canvas, which is simple in construction and is easy to disassemble and carry.
The bedroom is generally square or rectangular, with a wooden support frame about two meters high, overlying black yak rugs, surrounded pulling by ox hair rope, fixed to the ground. The tent’s ridge leaving about 15 cm wide, 1.5 meters long gap for light and ventilation. The internal tent surrounded by grass mud adobe piling up a low wall with the height of about 40-50 cm. Above area is for stacking barley, butter bags and cow dung. In the middle, there is a fire stove, the stove Buddha. The tents are simple to built, easily and flexiblely for dismounting, and very convenient, adapting to the nomad's life.
Architecture Characteristics in South Tibet
In Lhasa, Shigatse, Chamdo and some other cities and surrounding villages, there are the soil, or stone and wood structure houses, commonly known as "Tibetan Stone House ". Lhasa’s houses are usually the inner court corridor form with two or three layers. In the courtyard, a well and toilet are set at a corner of the courtyard. Around the city, there are mostly bungalow house of craftsmen, artisans, farmers which built by themselves. As for Shannan rural residential areas, because people love outdoor activities, they often used to set an open living space basing on the veranda, quite characteristic.
For many rural resident buildings, whether the design of living room, kitchen, storage, garden, or the layout of barn, pigsties, toilet are in reasonable function relationships. Some houses, clever using hillside, built the lower layer to be the cancha and the upper for patio or living spaces. Making the livestock has no interference with people, improving the health conditions.
These residential buildings’ notable featuresare:
1. Square bedroom, functional furniture and high lower layer.
2. Mostly bedroom use 2 × 2 m column grid as a unit, forming a combination of 4 × 4 m square.
3. The buildings are about 2.2-2.4 m high
4. There is mats furniture bed, small square table, Tibetan cabinet, with small, assembly, multi-use features. Furniture layout along the wall, fully using the interior corners area.
Structural systems: mostly civil or stone and wood composite structure. Adobe wall is generally 40-50 cm thick, and rough walls are about 50-80 cm thick. It is cool in summer and warm in winter, adapting to high altitude climate. Roofs are made of flat roofs.
Architecture Characteristics in East Tibet
Forest area’s house in eastern Tibet is of a different style. For example, Nyingchi residential area has mainly single family type, consisting with the bedroom (and kitchen), storage room, livestock room, verandahs, toilet and other components. Bedroom is in square or rectangle shape combined by square column grid. Interior is taking the stove as the center, layout around with beds and other furniture. The building is usually 2-2.3 meters high.
Architecture Characteristics in Northwest Tibet
Nagri Prefecure’s houses are located at the valley plains areas, and mainly detached village house, with civil structures. The houses mostly have two floors. The higher layer is for summer and the lower layer is for winter. By the cliff, there are cave dwellings, which is a combination of room kiln and cave.
Tibet's house has a very long history. About 4000 to 5000 years ago, there already have cave, semi-underground-style residential buildings and the original settlement, and Chamdo’s Karuo Ruins is one of the sites. Along with the society progresses, residential buildings have also developed. It has been a long-term evolution on the Tibetan plateau to adapting to climate, geography, and other natural conditions and living habits and combined with ethnic and cultural traditions.
Traditional Tibetan architecture techniques are under increasing threat from concrete, which is cheaper than natural materials and requires fewer skills.
Traditional Tibet houses are seen by some upper-class tibetans as backward, and towns and cities are increasingly dominated by apartment buildings.
Earthquakes are also a threat to traditional Tibetan houses, which often contain insufficient horizontal ties to keep the columns and roof stable during a seismic event.