A rich diversity of building styles is found in Gascony, reflecting the status and requirements of the original owners. Architectural detail varies according to the availability of local materials; stone, oak frame, clay brick and terracotta tile. A welcoming feature of many Gascon houses is a handsome hand-carved staircase.
The medieval nobility built defensive castles, châteaux fort, that also advertised their power and wealth. Châteaux de plaisance followed in the 16th century when the emphasis gave way to comfort and display. After the revolution, the term 'château' described any number of grand country houses, especially with towers and set in a landscaped park.
Manoirs were built on a more intimate scale with little or no concern for defense. Maisons de Maître were substantial country dwellings built in the 18th and 19th centuries by owners who lived off agricultural rents. Other variations in this category include gentilhommières, country residences of wealthy town dwellers or chartreuses with a single storey.
In their original design, farmhouses gave more attention to housing livestock and harvest than families. The typical L-shaped wing of the Gascon farmhouse converts readily to living accommodation and the thick walls provide insulation both in summer and winter.
Houses in hamlets or small villages could have originally have been farms or even small manoirs, sometimes with substantial gardens. Many smaller villages no longer have shops so while village properties offer security and community, they still entail a drive for supplies.
A selection of pictures of Gers and Gascony.