A Study of Architecture in Meinah…
…compared to the true historical architectural aspects and designs
which have together inspired it.
By “Ahgjan” Reuben Moss
Architecture in the various regions of Meinah is as unique as the people who live there. If compared to the true architectural and cultural styles of earth’s history, we find that multiple time periods and continents are represented in the scope of the land’s vast landscape. This is explained in Meinah by the varied draconic, elvin, and dwarven influence in human development which has in some ways suppressed and in others advanced the social and technological development of mankind
INSIDE THE HOME
Meinah as a whole shares several architectural points and items of technology which we today take for granted. Nighttime lighting, for example; the wealthy often will have wall mounted or hanging reservoir oil lamps, or in some cities even piped-gas lighting based on techniques used in some dragon ruins; the poor or stingy will instead use beeswax or animal lard candles for lighting instead. Nearly every structure has a fireplace for heat and light, often built of stone but in some cases out of heat tempered clay and sand brick. Windows in rural areas are often simply framed holes with curtains and shutters to keep the wind out in the winter; this same style is found throughout cities, however the wealthy can invest in brittle glass panels, the view in these distorted by ripples in the surface and bubbles in the hardened interior. Ramps are rarely used except in industry, steps being the common mode of ascent. Ladders also have a greater use as access to upper floors and to apartments from the street level, instead of constructing stairs inside the structure. Doors are latched and locked with simple mechanisms, and barrel & hook hinges [where a curved piece of metal inserts into a single loop, easy to lift out of place) are extremely common, although key pin hinges (similar to modern door hinges) are occasionally found. Some key pin hinges have a sloped design soas to cause the door to close again on its own*. Floors are often rough plank or bare dirt, many times with straw, or “thresh” thrown on top (as it can be swept out and replaced to ‘clean’ the room). On dirt floors where this is done, a board at the bottom of the door on the floor holds this from being tracked outside until it is swept so, (thus creating the term Threshold).
As far as furniture is concerned, rooms are large but lack closets, this is caused by the use of various dressers and linen presses to hold textiles. Tables are often made of rough planks, though highly detailed and smooth-polished ornate tables are avalable to the wealthy. Rope beds are a common, though many still use crates or wooden box frames, and in place of a mattress those not of the upper crust (who can afford feathers) use a straw or cornhusk stuffed pallet. The sink is replaced by a basin of water, and often dishes and clothes are washed in the same water. Cities occasionally have businesses which deliver water, filling any buckets that are set outside with a coin inside them. Soap is made of a combination of wood ash and animal fat (Lye soap).
Stables are commonplace no matter where you go. Farms often have a stable seperate from the barn which is used to store both the farm’s horses and also plows and wagons. Homes will often have a small stable for one or two horses, sometimes attached to other outbuildings for warmth. In the city, stables are important businesses, boarding horses and storing wagons in the back for those who live in the city or are traveling and in town on business. Stables are almost always primarily wood in construction, with sturdy build and pens inside with either fence or solid wall divisions. An upper floor or loft stores feed and straw, requiring a door on the front of this level and at times a crane for lifting sacks and bales from the street. Some business stables offer breeding services as well.
Outhouses are obviously an important necessity. These are built close enough to the home that it is not a hike to use, but far enough away that there is minimal smell. In the cities and at night, chamberpots (or toss pots) are used and emptied once or twice a day. Bathing is a rare occurrence, though swimming is a popular summer activity. A warm bath in the winter is only possible with a large kettle over a fire, or hot springs. In many cities individuals open public bath houses where warm water is provided for a fee, since otherwise water must be carried to the home, and the same water is shared by the entire household (even animals if needed). Most rural area baths are done in a pond or river.
Kitchens, though inside some modern and city homes, tend to be a separate structure in rural areas and on wealthy estates. These structures have one or more hearths, with an iron ‘crane’ for hanging pots on. Many also have an oven (a popular design being the Beehive Oven design*) The reason for the separate structure is quite simple: A hot room filled with flame can cause fire easily, or cause a home to grow exceedingly hot in the summer. The kitchen is often not far from the house, but far enough to allow safety in case of a fire. Some kitchens have living quarters above for the kitchen staff (in case of a wealthy estate).
Farm Structures vary in both design and function, but many are commonly seen nonetheless. There are barns dedicated to housing milk-providing animals and swine, and others for storing grain and straw for the grazing animals in fields. Other structures store the various plows and hitched tools used with the labor animals of the farm. Nearly every farm and several city residences have a coop in which chickens and fowl are kept for eggs and meat.
Spring Houses are often built at an area where a spring comes to the surface, or along a creek near such a point. This provides fresh water, but also a very cool area to store food. Ice houses have the same effect, though they must be filled with ice in the winter months and the combination of being underground and surrounded by ice allows for longer preservation of butchered meats. If ice is not easy to come by, many families keep their food in an enclosed cool corner of their cellar, or a separate root cellar dug under the ground.
Some of the other structures which can be found around Meinah include storehouses for barreled and boxed goods, smokehouses for smoking and curing of butchered meat so it will last longer before going bad, and drying houses for drying herbs and vegetables.
While a good portion of people live within the grand cities of Meinah during this period of reconstruction, there are hundreds of small villages and large town-like farm estates in which much of the population of Meinah reside.
On farm estates, the owning family often keep a large, lavish home for themselves with other residences or, at the least, bunkhouses for the estate’s farming and housework staff surrounding or nearby. Most of these are paid low wages or are indentured servants, but their needs are provided for in exchange for the work they do. In these cases, the owning family does little for themselves but oversee the workers, write, read, and learn recreational sport and music while reaping the benefits of their staff’s labor. Despite the expectation, a good deal of estate staff are content with their life even without high wages.
Elsewhere, many villages are simply communities of various forms and sizes doing what they can to survive. Homes are small, many being one room log cabins or stone cottages. Many of these communities are close, and citizens look out for one another. Those owning farms ring the community with their homes – farmland facing outward – and those with businesses or who help on these farms cluster their homes together within. Often times a village will have a generic shrine for worship of the gods, unlike the cities which have grand temples and priests.
CITIES OF MEINAH
It seems fitting to begin with the area around the capitol city of Nidiare. This consists highly of traditional Dutch and English influenced construction. Prominent granite and marble brick municipal and religious structures, stone houses and business fronts with large open windows and plastered wood upper levels, and all wood timber constructions. Buildings are mostly rectangular in form and appearance, with thatched or (in the case of the wealthy) tin or slate roof. Outside of the city walls, the rural structures are vastly georgian style stone buildings.
In the case of great estate homes, these can be rather massive structures with one half for the owning family and the other half housing the estate’s workforce. Farms in this area tend to also lean toward the dutch design, and windmills of such style are also often seen on hills and in areas where a constant breeze is commonplace.
Due east of Nidiare is Thaan, the city from under the mountain of Tha’an. Though mostly ruins, this ancient city is grand in size. Once the dragon capitol, it had been buried by dragons for thousands of years until it was recently uncovered by the evil dragon Synacra. With its trademark buildings offering grand halls and arched doorways designed to accomodate dragons, the Meinan Council hopes to rebuild the city into a new center of commerce and high society for a brighter Meinah.
Northeast of Thaan is Rhen. This is a wealthy city which could be compared with London. Many wood and stone structures, much decoration in the main commerce area, but patches where the poor and the servants to the wealthy live in close quarters and poor sanitation. The one structure which stands out in the city is Meinah’s largest temple, built in Synacra’s vanity but today serving as the temple to Elisa the Prosperous, a grand red-brick structure with copper domes over each main room and gold decoration throughout. Surrounding the city itself, and along the Great Silver Lake which is beside it, are plantation estates with large stone houses and full service farms.
Southwest of Nidiare can be found the city of Gril. These are generally stone or brick structures of various earth-tone colors (Brown, sandstone red, tan, white, gray). The brick can be tinted, cut from stone of that color, or painted with goatsmilk paint. Many of the buildings in this city are oversized and a good balance between being decorative and utilitarian. This is an industrial city, many of Meinah’s finest metal-smiths are located here including the best wagonwrights to be found.
East Meinah offers two ports, these however are more isolated from the rest of the nation than those of the west and are often quicker to reach by ship than land. In the north, Snada is a poor community of fishermen and loggers, providing exports of fine lumber and salted fish. The structures in this city make it look like an overgrown village, with clay or log structures and very little in the way of decoration. The people here are very practical and work oriented, some fishing boats being several generations old. In the south, Telan is a somewhat wealthier port than Snada, but not by much. The city exports exotic meats, herbs, and supplies from the villages located upriver within the dangerous and mysterious Xreda Forests. While plain clay, brick, and wooden structures are the most common structures here, they are more appealing than those in the northern port, and the city itself is laid out in an organized and clean fashion. Telan is often host to much of the newly formed Meinan Navy as it is one of two ports where those ships are being constructed. This arrangement allows freshly trained naval recruits and officers to hone their skills while patrolling Bloodfeather Bay for unwanted ships and gryphon crossings.
Just to the west of the desert are two major cities. Brench, in the south, is the government organized port of entry into the land, as it is easily defensible from land or sea. It was the first new city constructed after the end of the war and is still only partially constructed. The city has a north-italian feel when looking upon it due to the many taller structures with large windows and archways, spikes and spires and decorative watchtowers all built of local stone and claybrick which provide hues of pale yellow to pale oranges, with red or orange clay tiles replacing hatching for roofing material. While a wealthy community, it is only due to government presence and constant economic improvement from construction. This is one of very few communities that are governed under leadership placed by the Council, instead of an elected (or more often, unelected) leader or governor as other cities have.
Two days and night’s ride southwest of this, just upriver from the coast, is Grache. The architecture of this city is similar, though it also includes many gray stone rocks and more thatched or wood roofing. The city trades and stores mineral and stone supplies mined from the long finger of the Claw Mountains which it is built up against. Barges float goods from the mines to the city along the river.
Any ships entering Brench must pass by Geishra, into the Bay of the same name. Because of this, and due to the rising threat of piracy, the isolated City of Geishra was formed by the Council. This is more a naval base than a city, with nearly all of its population being members of the navy, and much of the port structures being support or watchtowers for the navy policing the Bay of Geishra for pirates. Occasional supply and trade ships stop here, and some merchants have set up shops to sell goods to officers which they would otherwise not have access to. The structures here are very utilitarian, built of heavy timbers and limestone. As the navy grows, so does Geishra.
Along the western coast are four smaller port cities. In the south, at the delta of the Green River which comes out of the Claw Mountains can be found Pan, many days ride north finds Shad and Dir, and in the northwest is the prominent city of Aelndrag.
Pan looks to be of spanish influence. Many arches, pillars, and colors appear here. Nearly all of the roofing in the city is red clay tile. The structures are of light colored sandstone or clay construction, and unlike much of Meinah it is common for a structure to be coated in plaster and painted to give the exterior a smooth finish. Upper floors often have balconies, and homes often are built with a central courtyard, even among the poor districts.
Shad is a largeish trade city with a reputation. It has a mixture of spanish and italian architecture, and a great deal of wood in the construction. To much of Meinah, this is now considered a pirate port. Black market trading, many drink halls and houses of ill repute, and a municipal leadership overseen by an organized crime family. Shad could simply be summarized as a Mafia controlled Tortuga. Dir on the other hand is a similar looking small but respectable port which is commonly stopped at by ships heading to or from Aelndrag before going out into open ocean to avoid Shad.
Aelndrag is perhaps the most unique of all Nigeri’s cities. While officially under the Meinan Council, Aelndrag is a religious stronghold for dragon worshipers and a safe haven for those wishing to escape from the judgemental leadership now running Meinah. The city has ancient looking construction which would seem more fitting in the arabian desert if it were not for the fact that all buildings are constructed from the strong black volcanic stone found all around the active volcano that the city takes its name from. At the top of a seemingly endless carved staircase, a temple to the ‘ancestor gods’ (aka dragons) is carved into the side of the volcano itself, and contains many hot springs and altars where sacrifices are made. Dragons are especially welcomed here, even if they ask not to be called gods they are treated as such. It is the only place in Meinah where the word of dragons is always held above that of the human leadership as deemed by the temple’s keepers. This is also considered the most peaceful and tranquil city in the entire nation.
* [Cite 1790s design used at Rose Hill Manor House, Frederick, MD USA]