What Are Round Houses Called? (7 Styles Explained)

Round houses are circular dwellings used by different cultures throughout history and located worldwide.

They vary in style and name depending on the culture and context, each with unique features and cultural significance.

This article will explore the diverse styles of round houses, including their unique characteristics and cultural importance:

1. Yurt

A yurt is a type of portable round tent traditionally used by nomadic people in Central Asia, particularly Mongolia.

Yurts have a distinctive shape that makes them easily recognizable. They have a circular frame made from wooden lattices covered with felt, canvas, or other materials and topped with a domed roof with a circular opening at the top.

The opening serves as a chimney for the smoke to escape and a way to let in light.

The frame of a yurt is designed to be collapsible and portable, making it easy for nomadic people to move with their dwellings as they follow grazing animals or seasonal patterns. Therefore, yurts can be easily assembled, disassembled, and carried on the backs of camels or horses.

Additionally, inside a yurt is typically a central support pole, which helps to hold up the roof and provides a central point around which the interior is organized.

Finally, the walls of the yurt are often lined with felt or other insulating materials to keep the interior warm and cozy in cold weather.

Nevertheless, yurts can be used for various purposes, including as homes, ceremonial spaces, or guest accommodations.

2. Geodesic Dome Home

A geodesic dome home is a rounded structure typically made from a framework of interlocking triangles or pentagons.

This type of construction was first popularized by the architect Buckminster Fuller in the mid-20th century, who believed that the geodesic dome was the most efficient and sustainable form of shelter.

Geodesic dome homes are often designed to be self-supporting, with the weight of the structure distributed evenly across the frame. This allows for larger, more spacious interiors without additional support columns or walls.

The frame can be made from various materials, including wood, metal, or PVC piping, and can be covered with various materials, such as metal, glass, or fabric.

Geodesic dome homes can be customized to fit a variety of lifestyles and purposes. They can be used as primary residences, vacation homes, or commercial structures such as greenhouses, event spaces, or educational facilities.

In addition, they offer a unique and eco-friendly alternative to traditional housing with their efficient use of space, natural materials, and sustainable design.

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3. Roundhouse

A roundhouse refers to a traditional roundhouse built using methods and materials used for centuries, often by indigenous cultures.

These homes are typically made from natural materials such as wood, stone, mud, or thatch and have a circular or rounded shape.

One example of an old-school roundhouse is the Celtic roundhouse used in ancient Britain and Europe. These homes were typically constructed using a framework of timber posts and wattle covered with thatch or turf.

The walls were made from mud or daub, a mixture of mud, straw, and animal dung.

Another example of an old-school roundhouse is the earth lodge, used by some Native American tribes of the Great Plains and Great Basin regions. These homes were semi-subterranean, with the walls made from a frame of wooden poles covered with earth.

The interior was often organized around a central hearth or fire pit, with benches or sleeping areas along the walls.

4. Tipis or Teepees

Tipis, also spelled teepees, are cone-shaped tents traditionally used by many Native American tribes of the Great Plains, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Blackfoot.

Tipis were designed to be easily portable, as the Plains tribes were nomadic and followed the buffalo herds for food and resources. They could be quickly dismantled and reassembled, making them ideal for temporary settlements.

The framework of a tipi is made from several long, slender poles tied together at the top to form a cone shape. The poles are then covered with animal hides, typically buffalo hides, which are stretched tight and secured to the ground with stakes or rocks.

A hole at the tipi’s top allows smoke from the fire inside to escape, while a flap at the bottom of the tipi serves as the entrance.

The interior of a tipi is set up around a central support pole, which helps to hold up the roof and provides a central point around which the interior is arranged.

In addition, tipis are often decorated with symbolic artwork, such as geometric patterns or animal motifs, that have spiritual significance to the tribe.

Tipis were used by Plains tribes as family dwellings, with one or more families living in each tipi. They were also used for ceremonies and as meeting places for tribes.

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5. Wigwams

Traditional Native American homes in the Northeastern United States often took the form of wigwams, characterized by their domed roofs and popular among Algonquian-speaking Native American groups.

Many Native American tribes were semi-nomadic, moving with the seasons to follow game and resources. So, wigwams had to be simple to build and transportable.

Wigwams are typically built with a circular framework of bent wooden poles anchored into the ground. Woven mats of bark, animal hides, or other materials cover the poles.

In addition, the wigwam has two openings. One large for entering and exiting and smaller for letting the smoke out.

In some wigwam designs, a makeshift hearth or kitchen is in the middle of the room.

It was common for one or more families to live in a single wigwam. Tribal gatherings and rituals took place there as well.

Finally, wigwams were great for short-term or transitional housing because they could be built quickly and easily.

6. Igloo and Glass Igloo

An igloo is a traditional Inuit dwelling made from blocks of compacted snow.

The blocks are cut and stacked in a circular or dome shape, with each layer slightly smaller than the one below it. Then, the snow blocks are mixed with ice and snow, and the interior is lined with animal hides or furs to provide insulation from the cold.

An entrance tunnel is also typically built to help keep the heat inside.

The shape of an igloo is highly effective at insulating against the cold and wind, making it an ideal shelter for the Inuit people who traditionally lived in Arctic regions.

Today, outdoor enthusiasts sometimes use igloos as a novelty hotel or restaurant experience.

On the other hand, a glass igloo is a modern variation of the traditional igloo designed for viewing the Northern Lights. Glass igloos are typically made from a framework of metal or wood, covered with insulated glass panels.

They often have a flat roof and a transparent ceiling, allowing guests to lie in bed and watch the aurora borealis overhead.

Furthermore, glass igloos are typically equipped with modern amenities such as heating, running water, and electricity, making them a more comfortable alternative to traditional igloos.

They are often located in remote areas with little light pollution, providing guests with an unobstructed night sky view.

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7. Rondavel

A rondavel is a type of traditional African dwelling that is typically round or oval in shape.

Rondavels are commonly found in southern and eastern Africa, particularly in regions where the Zulu and Xhosa peoples live.

They are usually constructed using natural materials like mud, grass, or thatch. The walls are made from a frame of wooden poles or reeds covered with mud or daub.

The roof is typically thatched, with grass or other plant materials woven to create a waterproof layer.

Rondavels are often set around a central hearth or fire pit, with sleeping areas or benches along the walls. They are sometimes decorated with geometric patterns or other designs that have cultural significance to the tribe.

In addition, rondavels are well-suited to the African climate, as their thatched roofs provide good insulation against the heat, and the mud walls provide some protection against the rain.

They are also designed to be easily disassembled and moved, making them ideal for semi-nomadic lifestyles. Today, rondavels are sometimes used for tourist accommodations, particularly in game reserves or other rural areas.

They offer a unique and eco-friendly alternative to modern accommodations with their natural materials and efficient use of space.


National Geographic – Yurt

Stair na hÉireann | History of Ireland – Celtic Roundhouses

Aktá Lakota Museum – Lakota Tipi

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