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. 

Front façade of Casa Floresta by Estúdio Zargos, a radical transformation

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.’

Interior details in concrete and wood at Casa Floresta, a radical transformation of a Belo Horizonte home by Estúdio Zargos

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

Bedroom and view of the city at Belo Horizonte home

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. 

Wood and concrete walls outside bedroom at Belo Horizonte home

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. 

Woman on terrace outside bedroom with concrete walls at Belo Horizonte home

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. 

Exposed concrete at Casa Floresta by Estúdio Zargos, a Belo Horizonte home with a radical transformation

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. 

Outdoor living space at Casa Floresta by Estúdio Zargos, a Belo Horizonte home

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. 

Indoor-outdoor living at Casa Floresta by Estúdio Zargos, a Belo Horizonte house with a modernist extension

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.  §

Rear view from above of Casa Floresta by Estúdio Zargos, a radical transformation of a Belo Horizonte home
Aerial view of Casa Floresta by Estúdio Zargos in Belo Horizonte


Casa Floresta by Estúdio Zargos, a radical transformation of an existing home