Tell someone you’re building a yurt and half the time you’ll watch as a look of confusion washes over their face. “What’s a yurt?!” they’ll often reply. Despite my inclination to tell people to imagine a wood-framed circus tent, the yurt is actually a unique structure with a rich history that stretches back thousands of years. The yurt has been altered and adapted in many ways since its earliest invention, but the basic principles have stayed the same.
There is some debate about what is considered a yurt and what is not. The definition I’ve developed is a circular structure that consists of lattice walls and a roof built with rafters that adjoin to a center ring. This definition is inclusive of ancient yurts built 2000 years ago and many modern yurts being produced today. There are structures that may be confused for a yurt but do not fit within this definition. I would consider these buildings “yurt-inspired,” and they often already have a name of their own. Am I going to call out everyone who makes this common mistake? Not likely. But let’s celebrate what these different structures actually are instead of throwing them all into one bin labeled “yurts.”