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​Counterspace is a Johannesburg-based collaborative architectural studio, directed by Sumayya Vally. Much of its work emerges from research and interdisciplinary arts-based projects, undertaking predominantly architectural projects, community engagement, exhibition and installation conceptualisation and urban research and design. Their work is influenced with ideas towards inclusivity, otherness and future; and often work with other creative disciplines in the formation of innovative approaches to interesting design challenges. Counterspace is inspired by their location – Johannesburg – and aims to work with developing design expression particularly for Johannesburg and the continent – through urban research, publications, installations and architecture. Counterspace has been involved in a number of research, graphic and immersive design projects with national-scale stakeholders, local architects and various universities in South Africa; in addition to various cultural architectural projects in rural and urbanized South Africa, and internationally. The practice occupies a space adjacent to academic practice, with Sumayya leading Unit 12 at the Graduate School of Architecture, Johannesburg, founded by Prof Lesley Lokko.


Serpentine Pavilion | 2020
Serpentine Pavilion 2020

Domus | 2019
Domus Top 100 Firms for 2019

Dezeen | 2019
Folded Skies installation mimics the light created by Johannesburg’s mine dust’

Places Journal
‘Installation: Johannesburg’s Toxic Sunsets’

GSA Unit 12 Website

GSA Unit 14 Website

#BackStoryStock – free representative stock images of Jo’burg citizens for download.

MASContext | 2016
‘7 Modes of Counterespionage’

The Huffington Post: Arts and Culture | 2015
‘Chicago Shows-off; CultureZohn’

House and Leisure | 2017
‘10 Inspirational Buildings in Africa’ 

Future Cape Town | 2016
‘Counterspace: A new way of practising architecture

Chicago Architecture Biennial | 2016
‘Counterspace: What is urgent?’

Design Indaba | 2016
‘Architects investigate Johannesburg’s abandoned mine dumps’


  • Statements: Installation for Politics of Architecture & African State Architecture research, for J. Gallagher at SOAS University, London.
  • BLOOM: GSA Summer Show: November 2019. Braamfontein Johannesburg.
  • What is Radical Today? 40 Positions on Architecture’ – exhbition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, curated by Gonzalo Herrero. 
  • Conversation Rooms: Institutional Imaginaries. September 2019. In collaboration with Dr Huda Tayob, History and thoery Convenor at the Graduate School of Architecture, UJ. 
  • ​​South African Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2019 – April 2019. Installation for MSR. Sandton, Johannesburg. 
  • GSA Super Show. November – December 2018. Installation for the Graduate School of Architecture UJ of all postgraduate architectural works. Museum of African Design, Maboneng, Joh​annesburg
  • Kaleidoscope. May 2018. Installation for Kohler at Design Joburg 2018. Sandton, Johannesburg.
  • Pendulum Black Coffee  & L’MAD Runways for SA Fashion Week Autumn Winter ’19. October 2018. 44 Stanley, Johannesburg.
  • Nelson Mandela Capture Site Exhibition 2017. Site in Howick, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Work executed in collaboration with Craig McClenaghan Architecture.
  • Swiss Embassy Art Exhibition, In collaboration with Lorenzo Nassimbeni. 2016 Pretoria
  • Dazzle! September 2016. In collaboration with Stephen Hobbs, Tamara Osso & Io Makandal. Maboneng, Johannesburg.
  • ‘Lost and Found’. Phantoms of Spaces and Times as part of Chicago Architecture Biennial. October 2015 – January 2016. Chicago Cultural Centre, Chicago.
  • Constructing Future Cities, May 2017. For British Council and Future Cape Town. Cape Town.
  • BackStory.  Liz Ogbu, 1to1 Agency for Engagement, Counterspace. August 2017. Johannesburg.
  • ‘Additions and Alterations’ Johannesburg. For Local Studio. November 2015. Fourthwall Books Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
  • ‘Additions and Alterations’ Cape Town. For Local Studio. November February 2016. The Architect, Cape Town City Centre
  • ‘Wits ArchiMart’ May 2015. For University of the Witwatersrand, School of Architecture and Planning. Point of Order, Braamfontein
  • ‘ShowOff Exhibition 2016’ Johannesburg. April 2016, Fox Street Studios, Maboneng, Johannesburg.


  • Vally, S. ‘Golden Plateaus’ in Conditions, e-flux, 2019 – Journal for the Sharjah Architecture Triennal
  • Vally, S & De Villiers, S. A Blurry Line on the Plan: Johannesburg Rituals on the Edge’ in FOLIO Vol 2: Noir Radicale. GSA Imprints.
  • Vally, S.  2019. An African Almanac. Presented Paper at AMPS Conference, New York.
  • Vally, S.  2019. Speaking in Tongues. Presented Paper at Fielding Architecture, Feminist Practices for a Decolonised Pedagogy, Brighton.
  • Vally, S, De Villiers, S, Kaskar, A. 2016. ‘ The Aesthetics of Absence’. In Lokko, L. ed. PUPAE: Fol Vol One. GSA Imprint.  Pp265-266.
  • Vally, S. ‘Joburg Stardust’. PUPAE – FOLIO Vol O​​ne Winter, GSA Imprint, 2017.
  • Vally, S and Steyn, S. ‘The Translation of Dreams: Unit 11 at the Graduate School of Architecture, South Africa’ Writingplace Journal issue #1 Literary Methods in Architectural Education, expected February 2018.
  • Vally, S. ‘ Radical’. Radical: Unit 11 2017 Vol One, GSA UJ, 2017.
  • Interview contribution in: Hobbs, S. ‘Where Architecture Meets Art’ Arch SA, Journal of South African Institute of Architecture, Issue 86, July August 2017.
  • De Villiers, S. December 2018. ‘Millennial Developments: Architecture in the Time of Risk and Space-Time Compression’. ArchSA Journal of South African Institute of Architecture.
  • De Villiers, S. 2017. ‘Ideas Bank ‘in PUPAE – FOLIO Vol One Winter, GSA Imprint, Johannesburg.
  • De Villiers, S. & Govender T.  Eds. ‘Rogue Economies Vol 1’. GSA UJ. Johannesburg. 2017. Includes graphic design by Counterspace.
  • De Villiers, S & Govender, T. December 2017. ‘Rogue Economies’ – Presented Paper at 10th Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism, Hong Kong.
  • De Villiers, S. & Govender T.  Eds. ‘Rogue Economies Vol 2: (In)Secure. GSA UJ. Johannesburg. 2018.
  • Charman, A, Govender, T, De Villiers S. Impact of Land Systems on Micro Economic Growth. Johannesburg. November 2017
  • GSA Unit 14, de Villiers, S. Govender, T, Ho-Tong, M, Wolff, I. Pumflet: Spectre. August 2017.