Pema Studio designs Forte House as “a dense and closed fortress”

Pema Studio’s architecture practice drew on the idea of ​​a protected fortress when creating the Forte House, a blocky, white-rendered home that replaces a neglected existing structure in Santo Tirso, Portugal.

The dwelling is set back from a retained facade and sits within the existing stone perimeter walls on the site, creating an exterior space around its edges with private, skylit patios.

Aerial view of Forte House in Santo Tirso
Pema Studio drew on the idea of ​​a protected fortress when creating the Forte House

“The house is designed in a complex balance between the creation of a dense and closed fortress and the reinterpretation of the typical patio house, looking for a protected oasis in its intimate relationship with the sky,” said Pema Studio.

“The intervention starts from a massive block that impertinently detaches from the limits and mimics the land plot outline.”

Sheltered outdoor space at Portuguese house
The white-rendered house is set back behind an existing facade

The retained facade and a metal gate of the former building now lead into an entrance courtyard, sheltered by a sloping roof punctured by a large opening.

Set back from the street, an entrance is tucked into the northern side of the house’s white exterior, leading into the more secluded study and bedroom at the front.

Courtyard outside Portuguese home
It sits within an existing stone wall

“The old facade, an element of the pre-existing [fabric]is one of the few remaining elements,” said the studio.

“With the necessary functional changes, it was restored and rehabilitated as an element of cohesion and framing with the adjacent urban fabric, reducing the intervention’s impact on the street,” it continued.

From the entrance, a corridor leads through to a more open living, kitchen and dining area at the rear of the house. This space is connected to a garden and swimming pool that can be independently accessed using the narrow pathways along each side of the site.

Two small planted courtyards have been cut out of the home’s southern edge, providing access to natural light and ventilation.

Swimming pool at Forte House by Pema Studio
There is a swimming pool

Stairs on both the interior and exterior lead up to Forte House’s first floor, where two additional bedrooms connect to the rooftop seating area and a balcony overlooking the street at the front of the site.

Inside, walls of white plaster in the circulation areas echo the design language of the exterior, while wooden paneling has been introduced in the bedrooms and living spaces, and is used to create large areas of built-in storage.

White-walled living room with wooden cabinets
The living space echoes the white exterior of the house

Based in Santo Tirso, Pema Studio was founded by Tiago Pedrosa Martins in 2019.

Other homes recently completed in Portugal include a cork-clad dwelling near Lisbon by Inês Brandão Arquitectura and a minimalist white home on a narrow site in Ponta Delgado by Box Arquitectos.

The photography is by Ivo Tavares.

Project credits:

Architects: Pema Studio
Collaborators: Daniel Carvalho/Livre Atelier and Dário Cunha
Main architect: Tiago Pedrosa Martins
Construction: Construções Alves e Freitas, Lda.
Engineers: M2 – Gabinete de Estudos