Flemish - Settlements

Early settlement sites were located along natural waterways and on protected coastal bays. Larger settlements grew up at trading points, located on natural overland and water Transportation routes. The human hand has greatly altered the Flemish landscape, by building canals, by dredging and straightening natural rivers, and by creating dikes and stabilizing sand dunes to create dry land out of marsh and to reclaim coastal floodplains. Walled cities are the hallmark of Flemish settlements, but villages, manorial estates, religious complexes, and farms are also significant. Dwellings and public buildings are made of local brick and cut limestone. Few buildings are constructed of wood, because of its scarcity, but early structures include half-wood upper stories, halftimbered buildings with brick infilling, and wooden roofs. Flemish "art cities," including Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp, are noted for their skillfully carved stone and brick buildings. Stone and brick masonry, slatework, lead-pipe forming, and other building trades were highly developed industrial arts from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, as is evident today in the finely constructed bridges, churches, city and guild halls, stockmarkets, and municipal markets. Residences dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were often built in a distinctly Flemish "stepped-gable" style, the echoes of which are reflected in more recent architecture. To this day, residences are "human-scale," building up rather than out. Residents often make space available on the ground floor for business activities: hence, the ubiquitous winkelshuis, "shop house," or handelshuis, "business residence."

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