MATERIA is an impact-driven real estate investor & developer focussed on urban regeneration, social infrastructure and housing across the Arab world and Africa

MATERIA realises Impact Investments that achieve financial returns and social benefits collaborating with world-class urban, social, financial and architectural practitioners. MATERIA’s projects establish economic and sustainable solutions conceived in distinction to the architectural and social context of each territory.

VISION: grow into the developer of reference for impactful real estate investments across the Arab world and Africa.

STRATEGY: achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns through the identification of supply-demand source imbalanced in real estate assets types, capital and information. Key principles:

  • Economic Efficiency: compelling financial returns and economic viability attracting private funding. For more info see Economic Sustainability and Financial Returns
  • Design and Construction Innovation: informing traditional techniques through modern building systems. For more info see Innovation
  • Foresight & Long-term View: focus on structural changes to address supply and demand misalignments
  • Value-add Management: advantages through on the ground presence, creating value through repositioning, restructuring, development, and intensive management. For more info see Team
  • Design Quality: collaboration with world-class urban design practitioners to challenge spatial practices that divides communities. For more info see Partners
  • Social Relevance: involvement and empowerment of local communities, use of local materials and workforce, enactment of sustainable practices and emphasis on public spaces. For more info see Responsibility

Our Approach derives from three key guiding principles: responsibility, innovation and foresight focussing on three investment strategies which provides a well-diversified exposure to the development dynamics of each territory:

Urban regeneration and development of large-scale urban neighbourhoods:

  • Responsibility: regeneration of urban areas denoting particular cultural, economic and social value through integrated socio-economical and physical renewal of the urban fabric
  • Innovation: project-led approach that aims to remove existing constraints, build on opportunities and improve social infrastructure creating a flexible framework for the local community to lead the change
  • Foresight: achieve long-term urban economic development that meets people’s social needs by promoting social inclusion and stronger communities and that guarantee long-term self-sustainable urban investments

Affordable and integrated housing communities addressing the needs of families and corporates alike:

  • Responsibility: creating sustainable, social and natural ecosystems through the use of local materials, collaboration with local communities and site-specific design to foster an atmosphere of social inclusion among residents of diverse cultural backgrounds
  • Innovation: novel financing structures to decrease the affordability threshold and highly innovative incremental design. Integrated masterplans around a core of social facilities, sustainable and inclusive guidelines for dwellings that set high standards of living
  • Foresight: income-generating assets for insurance companies, pension funds and institutional investors seeking local yield to match long-term liabilities

Schools, clinics, cultural and sports facilities forming the core of thriving communities. Key principles:

  • Responsibility: ensuring integration, sense of belonging and quality of common living
  • Innovation: relentless research on materials, climatic conditions and local living customs. Partnerships with DFIs (Development Finance Institutions) and other Partners to establish successfully and replicable ventures
  • Foresight: income-generating assets for impact investors looking to address the huge social infrastructure gap in the region

MATERIA was founded in 2014 by Lucio Frigo leveraging his experience at Goldman Sachs, Colony Capital and various real estate and cultural development project to establish a novel model of development.

Lucio Frigo is an urban and cultural developer focussed on urban regeneration of historical cities, arts districts, cultural landscapes and social infrastructure and operating across the MENA and Africa regions. Lucio’s approach stems out of over 17 years experience matured in the Gulf, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the US at leading global institutions. His work has been covered in international media such as The Financial Times, exhibited in world-know museums in the US and Europe, and he serves as Executive Advisor at the KSA Ministry of Culture. He also features regularly as Jury Member for international architectural design competitions and university design labs for urban regeneration and cultural development projects.

Lucio holds a Mmus and a MA from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a BSc from Bocconi University, Milan.

Construction MANAGEMENT

Thanks to his local presence MATERIA is able to establish experienced construction teams that direct and overview the works of sub-contractors. For each project local people are trained and integrated into the construction team to nurture skills and contribute to the long-term economic independency of local communities.

Project Partners

MATERIA collaborates in its projects with some of the world most visionary institutions, universities, designers, urbanists and social thinkers to envisage creative and sustainable solutions to local problems.

Kéré Architecture

Founded by Francis Kéré in 2005, with a dual focus on design and social commitment, the studio’s scope encompasses building, design and knowledge sharing. Informed by tradition, their practice explores new modes of construction for which the foundations have long been laid. Innovative uses of local resources and participatory design methods allow the studio to work beyond the boundaries of most established design practices and shed dominant norms to set our own precedents.

Francis Kéré is an internationally renowned Burkinabè architect and the 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Universities Institutions

MATERIA believes in the impact of a research by practice approach, and has joined forces over time with leading educational institutions such as USI, Bocconi and GSD to create programmes for students to participates in actual projects being developed through workshops on the ground, lectures and sponsored research.

For more details see here.

Aga Khan Development network (AKDN)

Group of development agencies with mandates that include the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, and the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities.

African Leadership Academy (ALA)

African Leadership Academy seeks to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of over 6,000 leaders who will work together to address Africa’s greatest challenges, achieve extraordinary social impact, and accelerate the continent’s growth trajectory. MATERIA has already hosted two interns at its projects in 2017 and 2018 and other initiatives are being envisaged.

Metal Yapi

Leading façade and building envelope manufacturers, with a product range comprising bespoke unitized curtain wall systems, active and interactive intelligent facades with ventilation, all types of steel and glass systems, sun shading systems and metal cladding. Yapi is able to work around MATERIA’s unique design concepts offering high-quality materials and innovative structures.

Cultural Engineering

Cultural Engineering is a creative services outlet that provides a consultancy service in the fields of culture, entrepreneurship and creative spaces across the UAE, Middle East and North Africa.

Enko Education

Enko Education has been a key MATERIA’s partner for the launch of the international school that was successfully developed in Mozambique. Enko is an Africa-wide network of international primary & secondary school, offering students across Africa with a launchpad to the world’s best universities.


Community-based enterprise started by architect and environmentalist Allan Schwarz in 1994, pushing forward a model of inclusive sustainable design in central Mozambique. Mezimbite harvests indigenous noble hardwoods to produce high-quality furniture and other wooden artifacts. The enterprise is currently growing through a series of satellite communities based on the model of Mezimbite and collaborating with MATERIA in some of these.