Doing big things that matter

MATERIA fosters the development and transfer of construction and community building knowledge, skills and techniques through training and cultural projects that aim to strengthen collective thinking and solutions dictated by local conditions.

The core belief is that symbiosis with environment, insights from local communities and best-in-class expertise, can result in compelling training workshops, exhibitions and events that can contribute to the future of the built world.

MATERIA is thus also envisaged as a platform of encounter for best-in-class practitioners and institutions having the opportunity to experiment on actual projects that get built or implemented.

MATERIA x Harvard GSD (Tunis Medina, Tunisia)

MATERIA-sponsored Harvard GSD project entitled Atlas for the Medina focussed on the Medina of Tunis is conceived with Prof. Gareth Doherty and his Critical Landscape Design Lab at Harvard. We believe the Tunis Medina is a living testament to a more solidary and sustainable living model holding key lesson for our urban future in the Arab World and beyond. The project comprises of 2 components:

  1. Research: “Atlas for the Medina” of Tunis where landscape urbanism is leveraged as catalyst for the regeneration of the Medina of Tunis
  2. Students Design Studio: “Tunisian Nightscapes” led by Prof. Francesca Benedetto

For more info see here.

Harvard students at work in the Tunis Medina

MATERIA x Università della Svizzera Italiana USI (Tete, Mozambique)

MATERIA has supported and hosted two USI ‘Building Realities’ Student Building Training Workshops in 2016 and 2018 at its project Benga Riverside.

The workshop has seen a total of over 40 international students alongside the local community spending each time five weeks in Mozambique to explore MATERIA’s projects and implement sustainable project. The workshops have designed and built a community centre (2016) and an affordable housing prototype (2018). Both projects have been featured in exhibitions in Switzerland and across international architectural magazines.

Al Quoz Park (Dubai, U.A.E.)

In collaboration with Cultural Engineering, MATERIA is studying an innovative park in the true manufacturing hub of Dubai – Al Quoz – which hosts dozen of large labour camps and has also become the centre of the arts in the Emirate.

With the express desire to create a welcoming park encompassing a mosque, a library, a coffee and an outdoor garden, MATERIA and Cultural Engineering aim to bring forward an inclusive model of development which can reform Dubai’s image and growth strategy for the better.

Al Quoz
A labour camp in Al Quoz

Press & Publishing

Culture Square in Jeddah featured in Il Corriere della Sera

Our founder Lucio Frigo was interviewed by Il Corriere della Sera about the 20,000 sqm Culture Square project designed by Schiattarella Associati and funded by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture. The project comprises of a performance art centre and a digital arts museum operated by TeamLab, and is featured to demonstrated how culture can contribute to the regeneration of the old city of Jeddah (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The Article written by Stefano Bocci and is attached.

LF in Il Corriere della Sera

MATERIA featured in The Financial Times

Our founder Lucio Frigo was interviewed by The Financial Times for MATERIA work on sustainable development, and how through the use of local materials and passive ventilation temperatures can be kept down. Featured is also our Benga Riverside School.

The Article written by Layli Foroudi can be found here: The Architecture of heat: how we built before air-con

MATERIA in The Financial Times
MATERIA in The Financial Times 2/2

Hassan Fathy and the Arab Tradition in Architecture 

Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy’s use of traditional techniques and local materials is still studied across the world by a plethora of young designers yearning for a new architectural language. Fathy’s architecture is solar and communal, yet earthy and modest just like the traditional Arab world that inspired him.

Yet our CEO argues that Fahty’s intuition of encouraging communities to build their specific reality on the basis of local materials and environments, is extremely fertile terrain for today’s designers.

The Article can be found here: The Egyptian Architect that Tried to Reverse Globalisation

New Gourna in Egypt
Earth and Utopia in Hassan Fathy's architecture

Deira in Dubai | Observations of an Urban Framework

B+H Architects and Cultural Engineering invited a selected number of city designers to participate to a design workshop that took place in the creek area of Dubai (Deira and Bur Dubai).

A book was produced as results of the input of each city designer with the aim to broaden the collective sources of inspiration and trigger consideration of how alternative models of development might be included in Dubai’s growth.

MATERIA’s CEO contributed an essay to the book, Dubai Reimagined, which can be found below or by bookshops across the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

The Essay can be found here: Dubai Reimagined – Lucio Frigo

ARCHI MAGAZINE: MATERIA’s Building Reality Workshop 2016

Architect Alberto Pottenghi summarises the lessons learnts by students during the Universita’ della Svizzera Italiana’s workshop in collaboration with Atelier Francis Kere and MATERIA by our project Benga Riverside (see more in the project page)

The article can be found here: ARCHI Magazine article – MATERIA Atelier Kere workshop 2016

ARCHI Building Reality Workshop 2016

MATERIA’s Construction Manual – on the Ground

MATERIA is leveraging the experience being matured on the ground through its Projects, to produce a visual construction manual that can transfer sustainable construction practices and guideline for other operators and local communities.

The project is forecasted to be published in 2022.


“Francis Kéré, Primary Elements”, ICO Museum, Madrid, October 2018 to January 2019

Francis Kere opened on Wednesday his first exhibition in Madrid at the Official Credit Institute (ICO) Museum, with a focus on his method of marrying old and new materials and building techniques.

Our Benga Riverside School was featured in the exhibition among other projects witnessing the ground-breaking innovations brought forward by our partner architect.

Francis Kéré, Primary Elements | ICO Museum

The ICO exhibition in Madrid (Oct 2018)

Building Reality USI Exhibition, Atelier Kere, Mendrisio, October 2018

Photographic and architectural exhibitions of the USI workshop in Mozambique sponsored by MATERIA. Exhibitions dates: Oct-Dec 2018

The exhibition at USI (Oct 2018)

Building Reality USI Exhibition, Atelier Kere, Mendrisio, November 2016

Photographic and architectural exhibitions of the USI workshop in Mozambique sponsored by MATERIA. Exhibitions dates: Nov-Dec 2016

The exhibition at USI (Nov 2016)

Philadelphia Museum of Arts, Creative Africa, Philadelphia, U.S.A., May 2016

Photographic and architectural exhibitions on various African projects in architecture, fashion and arts. Featuring the work of Francis Kere and MATERIA’s project Benga Riverside. Exhibitions dates: May-Oct 2016

MATERIA boots at Creative Africa @ PMA

Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, Geneve, May 2016

Photographic and architectural exhibitions of the USI workshop in Mozambique sponsored by MATERIA during January and February 2016.

Design Competitions, Awards & Talks

Harvard Graduate School of Design, Graduate Final Reviews, Zhang Ke studio, Dec 2019

Our founder Lucio Frigo was invited as Jury Member for the final review of the Zhang Ke design studio, Habitat Kashgar, at Harvard GSD. The studio saw a dozen graduate students to put forward a residential or community project in the Uyghur region of China. Zhang  Ke is a recipient of the Aga Khan prize for architecture 2016 and founder of ZAO/Standard Architecture.

Other jury members included Toshiko More, Michael Hays, Lyndon Neri & Rossana Hu, Elle Gerdmann, Nondita Correa Mehrotra, Eric Howeler, Claudia Taborda and Jon Lott.

Harvard GSD
Habitat Kashgar at Harvard GSD

Best Alternative-Asset Development, African Property Investment Awards, Johannesburg, Oct 2018

Our Enko Benga Riverside School was awarded the 2nd Prize in the Best  Alternative-Asset Development in Africa, a category that includes schools, hospital, clinics, infrastructure assets and more. For more information about the jury and the other finalists please visit the African Property Investment Award website.

West Africa Property Summit, Lagos, Nov 2017

MATERIA’s CEO, Lucio Frigo, was invited to give a talk about MATERIA’s innovative affordable housing strategy in a panel entitled “Creating an Affordable Housing Ecosystem”.

African Union for Housing Finance 33rd Conference, Kampala, Oct 2017

MATERIA’s CEO, Lucio Frigo, was invited to present MATERIA’s affordable housing strategy to the board members of the AUHF and other institutional stakeholders in the housing industry. The talk stressed how the implementation of housing finance solutions need to go hand in hand with the actual construction in order to achieve real scale.

Casabella MoreTalks at Salone del Mobile, Milano, Apr 2016

MATERIA’s CEO, Lucio Frigo, is a panelist together with architect Ricardo Blumer and Federico Tranfa, at the opening event for the MoreTalks cycle of conferences. The conferences are organised by leading architectural magazine Casabella that since 1928 has helped fostering the architectural and design discourse in Europe and beyond.

The talk will focus on the housing typologies more apt for the contemporary living and its consequences from an economical perspective.

Wharton Africa Summit, Addis Ababa, March 2016

MATERIA’s CEO, Lucio Frigo, has been invited to chair the Real Estate panel that includes some of the leading Real Estate investors and developers in Africa, including senior management from the National Real Estate Co, ATTAfrica, Actis, Diar Capital, Xterra.

The summit sees leading politicians, entrepreneurs and investors working for Africa to gather and discuss future economic and investment trends in the African continent.

Dubai Family Office Forum, Dubai, Feb 2016

MATERIA co-sponsored the Dubai Family Office Forum in Dubai on the 16-17th of February 2016. MATERIA’s CEO, Lucio Frigo, hosted a talk where he reminded some of the leading international family offices of the relevance of Impact Investing [link to Our Approach/Impact Investing] for Africa.

Discussion reverted around the key importance of encouraging local production in the construction industry so transfer knowledge and skills to local population, create jobs, create transport costs and pollution and, eventually, reduce end-product costs for higher quality of construction.