Casa Floresta is a radical transformation of a traditional Brazilian house
Estúdio Zargos upends convention with this modernist extension to an existing house in Belo Horizonte
This home’s radical transformation in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte splices a traditional suburban house with a bold new addition. Tasked with creating an all-new house, the locally based office of Estúdio Zargos – comprising Zargos Rodrigues, Rodrigo Pereira, Frederico Rodrigues, Ika Okamoto, Carla Deltreggia, Letícia Armond, Nathalia Melo and Lais Parreiras – baulked at the most obvious course of action, complete demolition. Instead, they wanted to consider the old house – the casa antiga – as an integral part of the design.
Spread across two levels, the original house presents a single-storey to the street level. A pitched roof with terracotta tiles, shuttered windows and a pebbled drive offer up an innocuous yet familiar presence to the street.
‘Our first challenge was to reverse the initial demand to demolish the existing building completely,’ the architects write. ‘The original forms and proportions of this house span decades and tell us the story of a welcoming and receptive city.’
Instead, the Estúdio Zargos team vowed to preserve the original character of the house – at least from the street – while giving the interior a rework that effectively gives Casa Floresta an entirely different character when viewed from the rear façade.
The architects imply this new hybrid is an homage to Belo Horizonte’s mix of old and new; the original 19th-century planned city includes many contemporary buildings from Brazil’s long and pioneering relationship with modernism.
You would never know this to be the case from the modest single-storey front façade. The original house was built on a sloping site, so you enter at what is actually first-floor level, with more accommodation at ground-floor level below.
The redesign adds an entirely new structure to the rear of the house, effectively covering 90 per cent of the site, but using transparency, multiple layers, levels, and covered spaces to provide a much stronger connection with the outside.
The new first floor has become the functional heart of the house, with a garage and storage area taking up the space that presents to the street, beyond which lies a large entrance hall with a view straight through to the new extension, culminating in a staircase leading down to ground level.
This floor also houses the three en-suite bedrooms, together with a generous terrace. The ground floor of the original house has been repurposed as a self-contained apartment, accessed separately from the main house.
The addition is completed in a totally different material palette and structural system, with meticulously poured shuttered concrete paired with hardwood joinery and large expanses of glass.
At ground-floor level, the new kitchen, dining, and living space can all be opened up to the terraced garden via large sliding glass doors.
The garden itself combines tropical planting with high walls and a pool, creating a secluded oasis in the heart of the city.
Large expanses of blocked colour contrast with the grey concrete, and the landscaping by Rodrigo Pereira makes extensive provision for plants to grow and become a defining part of the design.
The architects describe the project as a dialogue between the new spaces and the austerity of the contemporary materials, with views through, across, and out of the structure to the skyline of Belo Horizonte. §