Aerial View of the Algarve Complex, Duisburg


Rethinking Inner City Waterfronts with ZAR Real Estate

A derelict industrial complex is not only a sad sight because of its run-down looks but more so because of its underutilization—you can’t help but wonder what else could take its place and make use of it. The Algarve project in the port town of Duisburg shows us one possible solution for reimagining and renovating a desolate site that occupies a large chunk of the city.

Sitting on 96.000 square meters of former wasteland, this joint undertaking by ZAR Real Estate Holding and the Jan Wiese Architects aims to turn an abandoned vehicle factory into a vibrant residential area right on the Rhine, providing residents of the city with much-needed access to the waterfront that was previously denied from them. 

This project is a great example of sustainability that goes way beyond eco-conscious materials and practices, and looks at the big picture: despite how it might seem at first, city living is the future of efficiency as it minimizes daily commute and makes energy usage much more sufficient. 

To this end, the Algarve complex not only provides affordable and comfortable housing to families and students but puts a range of amenities and services like bars, shops, eateries, and sports facilities at arm’s reach.   

Visualizing a project of this size in the form of stills and animation is a challenge in itself mostly due to the sheer amount of details that have to be implemented. Algarve is basically a city inside a city with red brick walls referencing its glorious industrial history, white metal and glass towers breaking up architectural monotony, old buildings turned into parking lots and offices, and recreational and urban farming spaces atop huge rooftops. 

So imagine our surprise when we found out that we would have to model all of it from scratch. And we really mean all of it: instead of fully realized models, we had to work with schematic blocks that signaled the mass and location of each building. We were also given photo references of building archetypes that would help our team decide on materials, shapes, structures, and an overall mood that would successfully bridge the gap between the past and future by marrying a preserved industrial look with a modern one. 

Using parametric methods to model each building piece by piece took our artists approximately three weeks in total, but by looking at the end result, it surely seems like we managed to flip a cold and rigid site into a warm and livable space, and possibly one of the most inviting residential areas in the city of Duisburg. The prestigious Callwey Verlag publishing house thinks so too as they’ve included the Algarve project in their very first real estate best-of book, Immobilien des Jahres.

Since we were greatly inspired by this idea of giving a once populous and thriving port town a fresh new start, we wanted to center the narrative of our animation around this theme of reinvention and re-juvenilization. Coincidently, the client mentioned that the town has a local hero of sorts, a famous detective character from an old television series who happens to be unimpressed by almost everything. However, we had the feeling he would approve of the Algarve development though—so we included a hand-drawn 2D version of him in our video.

Making this character into our protagonist wasn’t a pointless gimmick either: we felt that a unique narrative and stylistic tool like this could elevate the material by giving it a more personal touch, potentially resonating much better with the target audience, Germans looking for a new residence they can call home. 

In our video, this agent of a bygone era looks over the finished residential complex with a sense of respect and pride as he knows this project means the repopulation of his beloved city with dozens of families choosing Duisburg once again over the surrounding conurbation.


Duisburg, Germany


Bence Falussy
Matteo Piccini
Samer Saniour
Ilus Varga


Get in touch