About

Counterspace is a Johannesburg-based collaborative studio of young architecture graduates, established in 2014 by Sarah de Villiers, Amina Kaskar and Sumayya Vally. Counterspace is dedicated to research-based projects, which take the form of exhibition design, competition work, urban insurgency, and public events. Their work is predominantly concerned with ideas for future and otherness; playing with image and narrative as a means of deconstructing and reconstructing space and city, ultimately with the aim to incite provocative thought around perceptions of Johannesburg.

In 2015, the firm was invited to participate in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, where they showcased their work entitled ‘Lost and Found’, in collaboration with photographer Jason Larkin. Counterspace has also been involved in a multitude of graphic and curatorial work with Local Studio, and the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand; as well as intensive social-spatial research on the eastern peripheries of Johannesburg CBD.

Online Media Links:
Uncubed Magazine
2015
‘From Agency to Urgency: Experiments in the Impossible at the first Chicago Architecture biennial’

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

Future Cape Town
6 April 2016
‘Counterspace: A new way of practising architecture’

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

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

Exhibitions

Counterspace has participated in production and curation of a multitude of exhibitions, their skill set involving graphic design, technical drawing and rendering, book layout design, writing, display stand design, supplier liaison and installation & project management. They have been involved in the following projects:

La Biennale di Venezia, South African Pavillion
May 2014 – November 2014
Sale d’Armi, Venice
S. Vally as assistant curator

‘Wits ArchiMart’
May 2015
Point of Order, Braamfontein
S. de Villiers, B. Hirson M. Flanagan, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
An exhibition of works by the Master of Architecture class of 2014 at the University of the Witwatersrand.

National Corobrik Exhibition: Idea Bank
April 2015
Maslow Hotel Sandton
S. de Villiers
An exhibition of regional entry to the annual national architecture competition of competing architectural schools around South Africa.

‘Lost and Found’ S. de Villiers, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
October 2015 - January 2016. Chicago Cultural Centre.

‘Additions and Alterations’ Johannesburg
November 2015
Fourthwall Books Braamfontein
S. de Villiers, M. Flanagan, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
An exhibition of recent works by Johannesburg architecture firm, Local Studio.

‘Additions and Alterations’ Cape Town
February 2016
The Architect, Cape Town City Centre
S. de Villiers, M. Flanagan, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
An exhibition of recent works by Johannesburg architecture firm, Local Studio.

‘ShowOff Exhibition 2016’ Johannesburg
April 2016, Fox Street Studios, Maboneng, Johannesburg.
S. de Villiers, A. Kaskar, S. Vally.
An exhibition of recent works by Johannesburg collocated firms UrbanWorks, Lorenzo Nassimbeni, Parts and Labour and Counterspace.

Team

Sarah de Villiers
M.arch (prof) (Wits)
Counterspace Johannesburg

sarah@counterspace-studio.com
Instagram: se_dv
+27 84 958 1969

In her submittal of her thesis for Masters of Architecture; entitled “Idea Bank: From Watt Street to Wall Street, Wynberg Johannesburg” (University of the Witwatersrand), Sarah made use of various spatial and artistic modes for exploration, offering re-imaginings of versions of social exchange; and exploring of the fantastical heterotopias of money spaces and their power in the city. The thesis won the regional Corobrik of the Year award for 2014. Sarah’s entry in the ‘Bluprints of Paradise’ competition held in the Netherlands; which dealt with reconceptualising the future of suburban utopia, received an honourable mention award in 2010.

Amina Kaskar
M.arch (prof) (Wits)
Counterspace Johannesburg

amina@counterspace-studio.com
Instagram: amina_kaskar
+27 83 301 0996

With particular interests embedded in textual and semantic understandings of a city’s layering; Amina provides valuable agility in handling symbolic analyses of urban fabric; and decoding. Her thesis, completed in 2014; illustrates this agility fully; where the stories and myths of Doornfontein, Johannesburg, are rewrapped and rescripted into new forms of digital urban story telling. Following completion of her thesis, Amina was awarded a travelling bursary to Pune, India; in January 2015, under the ‘Study India Programme’.

Sumayya Vally
M.arch (prof) (Wits)
Counterspace Johannesburg

Sumayya@counterspace-studio.com
Instagram: sumi_v
+27 82 754 4551

Digital collage and a forensic approach to space expose Sumayya’s particular obsession with future ruin; fictional future space; pitted against the ever emerging and disappearing image of Johannesburg. Whether unpacking the city through a microscope; or satellite imagery; Sumayya has a particular interest in exposing parts of its constituency which are largely invisible. Her interests have admitted her into a host of prominent conceptual/investigatory projects; including a position as assistant curator and film producer for La Biennale di Venezia 2014 (South African Pavilion). Sumayya currently teaches at the University of Johannesburg; tutoring Unit 12 of the Graduate School of Architecture (as part of CROSSINGS, a three-year research on the ‘edges’ of Africa, headed by Dr. Lesley Lokko).

Collaborators

Counterspace pursues work which involves collaboration with a wide spectrum of artists, researchers, architects and urban practitioners; in an effort to access space and the city through unconventional avenues. People we have worked with in the past include:

Spacial Practitioners:
1to1 Agency for Engagement
Atmos Studio
Blanca Calvo Boixet
Brett Hirson
Future Cape Town
Simon Mayson
Stephen Steyn
Thomas Chapman
Urban Works

Photographers:
Dave Southwood
Jabulani Khwela
Jason Larkin
Melissa Bennett

Artists:
Bettina Malcomess
Henn+Honeyball
Io Makandal Scheiss
Lorenzo Nassimbeni
Michael Tymbios
Parts and Labour
Mai Mai Community
Mdu Mphethephethe

Academic Institutions:
School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits Archimart, Yeoville stories)
Wits School of the Arts (Wits Archimart)

Contact

Counterspace:

info@counterspace-studio.com
+27 83 301 0996 (Amina)
+27 84 958 1969 (Sarah)
+27 82 754 4551 (Sumayya)

Address:
Fox Street Studios
First Floor
280 Fox Street Studios
City and Suburban
Johannesburg

Post:
PostNet Suite #534
Private Bag x113
Melville
2109

Social Media:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project

Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project

Johannesburg’s recyclable waste reclaiming landscape is by its very nature apart of this dichotomy. Through a series of networks reclaimers and their trade mark vehicles move through the city and its surrounds and with deliberate precision; they collect the discarded remnants of consumed products in which they find economic value. They act as vehicles creating fluidity and motion in the larger system of waste recycling.

Counterspace engaged with the local recyclers through a number of workshops, mapping out the use of the Auret Street building as a waste organising space as well as a place where the recyclers live. The proposal looked at remedying some of the hazardous areas in the building and mediating an arts and culture project that engaged with the up and coming urban redevelopment of the area. The sensitivity of this experimental project is to be initiated through social media platforms and creating awareness as a form of land activism.

Project type: Architecture, Research
Collaborators: 1to1 Agency for Engagement
Jabulani Khwela
Project Year: 2015/2016
Client: Propertuity
Location: Corner Auret and Fox Street, City and Suburban

Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project Auret Street Recycling Building Regeneration Project

Wits Archimart Exhibition

Wits Archimart Exhibition

An Exhibition Of Works Of The Masters Of Architecture Course For 2014 At The Univeristy Of The Witwatersrand.

Date: 6 May 2015 - 15 May 2016.

ArchiMart showcased the architecture master’s thesis projects of the University of Witwatersrand, class of 2014.
Whoosh. Automatic door. Enter. Colours. Scan aisles. Audio interrupt - Happy voice, Sale!
Architecture is everywhere, and Everything is architecture;
So why do we limit the conversation to architects?
ArchiMart aims to render architectural research projects consumable to the types of people who inspired them, to everyone. To us; the supermarket is just that – a space where all and sundry are bound together by everyday-ritual. Here, architecture is ‘consumed’, pulled in to viscerally clash with the everyday, to inspire active criticism, and, ultimately, offer opportunity to recalibrate what we are otherwise passively endure. What is the future of space-making, in Johannesburg, and the world?
The class of 2014/15 showcased a wide range of talent and interests A whole host of architectural hallucinations waiting to be bought, consumed and inspire discussion.

The Archimart exhibition was a display of the Masters’ thesis architecture projects from the class of 2014 of the University of the Witwatersrand. Counterspace used the theme of the supermarket to comment on the connection between architectural research and its accessibility within everyday life. The exhibition with its 50c coupons, advertisements posters, aisle flags, neon signs and display milk cartons became a space where architecture could be ‘consumed’ and frenzied.

Archimart became a mini architecture festival showcasing a wide range of projects from a sensitive religious-political building in the Middle East; to radically proposing a change in socio-monopoly infrastructure in Sandton-Alexandra.

Counterspace held successful networking events for professionals, with a tongue in cheek comment on the ‘sale’ of recent graduates into the industry; and pop up cinema which extended to the street, hosting a series of film screenings looking at architecture and narrative. Panel discussions inspired active criticism with debate about the graduate work, the state of architecture, and the future of space-making in Johannesburg.

Project type: Research, Exhibiiton
Collaborators: Reshma Chhiba (Wits School of the Arts), Brett Hirson
Project Year: 2015
Client: School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand
Location: The Point of Order Gallery, Noswal Hall, Corner of Bertha and Stiemans Street, Braamfontein

Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition Wits Archimart Exhibition

Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times

Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times

Date: 3 October 2015 - 3 January 2016.

Chicago Architecture Biennial

Lost and Found conveys the multiplicity of narratives that are legible in Johannesburg’s landscape of mines. On a satellite map, a zoom-out view of the city shows yellow-and-white sand mountains—massive and imposing man-made nature scripted by subterranean gold—so vast that their monumentality lays bare the scale of exploitation by the colonial and Apartheid regimes. The minescape girdles the areas that belong to differing race groups, not only acting as a symbolic memory of political struggle, but remaining a physical barrier between the various groups that were defined during Apartheid. A reversal of the lens—zooming in on the dust mountains— reveals architectures beyond the limits of formal planning and design. The mountains are sites of invisible cities. A face-mask, an old rubber glove, and a makeshift pick-axe. A frosted glass bottle with a label etched in Dutch script. Plastic drive-in movie posters advertising a Valentine’s Special. A Zion-Christian star badge, which has become host to a coral-like formation of turquoise crystals. In Lost and Found, our minds fill in the stories contained in these mysterious artifacts. Loose connections are fostered between the actual place, the maps, the artifacts. The distinction between physical objects and imagined history is blurred.

On a satellite map, a zoom-out view of the city shows yellow-and-white sand mountains— massive and imposing man-made natures, scripted by subterranean gold—so vast that their monumentality lays bare the scale of exploitation by the colonial and Apartheid regimes. The minescape girdles the areas that were once restricted to differing race groups, not only acting as a symbolic memory of political struggle, but remaining a physical barrier between the various groups that were defined during Apartheid.

In a reversal of the lens—zooming in on the dust mountains—reveals architectures beyond the limits of formal planning and design. The mountains are sites of invisible cities. A face-mask, an old rubber glove, and a makeshift pick-axe. A frosted glass bottle with a label etched in Dutch script. Plastic drive-in movie posters advertising a Valentine’s Special. A Zion-Christian star badge, which has become host to a coral-like formation of turquoise crystals.

The mine dumps are eroding, but as they erode, and layers of dust and sediment and upheaved, histories are being uncovered. For example, an unmarked cemetery was recently unearthed on the Langlaagte mine dump. The bones had turned blue from chemical interference of the acid mine water, but archaeologists were still able to determine, from surrounding evidence, that these were the bones of Chinese labourers. The leftover architectures gave many clues of this history, but it is nowhere to be found in history books.

The mine dumps were used as a buffer strip, for a long time in history, thus considered a non- place, an uninhabitable line.

But the boundaries themselves are new territories – they are spaces which do not strictly belong to anyone, and a range of ad-hoc activities and architectures have formed within them.

Johannesburg mine dumps secrete visceral colours from the metallic pigments and after effects of the mining the earth. The type of mining (gold, coal, diamond) and the geological conditions of the soil affect the formation of the colours of the pigments.

This is a key geographic indicator of the fragments. Structured by the colour of the metallic compound, we arranged petri dishes with the evidence of the architectures that we have found, along with corresponding research drawings and mappings. Excerpts of factual texts accompany the fragments, allowing the viewer to collage the stories in their mind, resonant with the way that we compiled the research. Much of the information is missing.

These fragments and excerpts not only provide an understanding of past oppressive and capitalist architectural and urban devices within the city, but also alert us to the challenges the architecture must engage with for the future of these lands – whole sections of settlements falling into the hollow ground, a man who fell metres into the ground and burnt from the waist down from coal burning underground in an abandoned mine, closed decades before. New architecture in these spaces will always have to engage with the aggressive and sinister phantoms of the past activities on the land.

Project type: Research, Exhibiiton, Publication
Collaborators: Jason Larkin
Project Year: October 2015 - January 2016
Client: Chicago Architecture Biennial, curated by Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda
Location: Chicago Cultural Centre 78 E Washington Street, Chicago, USA

Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times Lost and Found: Phantoms of Spaces and Times

7 Modes of Counterespionage

7 Modes of Counterespionage

Written by: Sarah de Villiers, Amina Kaskar and Sumayya Vally
Submitted as part of the MAS Context Hidden Issue (expected 2016)

“Which side are you on?
Which realm is the legitimate, the real?
What is rendered opaque, and from whom?”

A great deal of Johannesburg’s existence(s) is made up of counter-existences which work despite limitations and what is recognised as the nominal city,- structures formed and designed for survival against economic and spatial deprivation, in the leftovers, slippages and loopholes of the city, which we recognise as the city. Architects unravel the secrets of space through an all seeing plain of plan or section, both not actual perspectives by a person in space, but an all-seeing flattened view, equidistant from a slice in space. In a perspective, there is foreground and background – in section or plan, there is isolation in empirical space.

Imagine a spy, crouched above the city’s streets, viewing the goings on through windows and alleys from a parapet up above.
Imagine a fugitive, running through the sewer tunnels in the bowels of the city, navigating through the hidden services that connect the individual properties above.”

“A vertical slice to forego the horizontal sprawls and runnings-on of the city. We feel Johannesburg needs to be unpacked through an archaeological section; from vantage points high above, to those below, to straddle the complexities and tensions that are spoken of, that run the city.” – excerpts from ‘7 Steps of Counterespionage’, MAS Context, 2016.

Some areas studied in the article include:

1. Deep level mines (-6500 ft)
a. Zama Zamas
“try your luck”
b. disappearing houses/sinking sand
“the dolomitic situation is satanic”
2. Informal recyclers (-20 - +20 ft)
“R1.00 per kilogram of recycled paper”
3. Transport interchanges
“secrecy”
4. Underground underground
“the villages under the highway”
5. Backyard / balcony secrets ( +0 – 200 feet)
“invented, undeclared sub-populations”
6. Rituals on man-made mountain (+65 feet)
“an exercise in place-making”
7. Sky locations (+200 feet up)
“breathing gap for shortcomings of the city”

Project type: Publication

7 Modes of Counterespionage 7 Modes of Counterespionage 7 Modes of Counterespionage

Additions & Alterations
recent built work by local studio in Johannesburg 2012-2015

Additions and Alterations

Counterspace was commissioned by Local Studio, a young local architectural practice, to put together an exhibition of their recent capsule of public buildings.
We were drawn to the notion of showcasing the building in use. Our animated graphic style displays the day to day soap opera of the life of the buildings.
// Superpowers. To us, almost as intriguing as Local Studio’s architectures, are the stories surrounding them. The work is almost always borne from smaller projects undertaken in a spirit of immense generosity.
// Superabundance. The exhibition celebrates the narratives of the buildings pre, during and post construction – capturing a small snapshot of the complexities, actors, networks and conversations that extend beyond the architect and the architecture.
// Superstudio. The determination to deliver thoughtful architecture. The photographic and drawn exhibits shows the deep appreciating of context  and how the building facilitates the spirit of people and place.

Project type: Exhibitions, Research, Publication
Client: Local Studio
Collaborators: Jhono Bennett, Dave Southwood, Lorenzo Nassimbeni
Project Year: 2015
Location: Fourthwall Books, Johannesburg

Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations Additions and Alterations

Ideas Bank

Ideas Bank

Written by: Sarah de Villiers

Between Watt Street and Wall Street: Idea Bank for New Financial and Social Transactions; in Wynberg, Johannesburg

Submission by Sarah de Villiers as part of Masters of Architecture Professional Thesis Dissertation at the University of the Witwatersrand:

What if you could spend an idea to earn money?

Investigations into the spatial orders of ‘money institutions’ (including the bank, shopping mall and casino) indicate that they are increasingly experienced as closed protected entities; possibly reflective of concurrent financial barrier-type phenomena which occur at an urban scale. In this somewhat detached enclave, it is all smoke and mirrors: The rules can be broken for the desires of those inside, and keep out the supposed risks of those who are not. Its detachedness is reconstructed through the theoretical perspectives of Michel Foucault and Georg Simmel; this examination providing grasp for spatial tools which, if altered, could recalibrate the way in which privatised spaces open and close themselves to the public.

How can a reassembly of spatial and psychological thresholds in financial institutions assist in making capital more accessible to everyday people? The results of this research propose a reworked syntax of physical legibilities which make entry, participation and exit in financial systems understandable and therefore more possible. An idea trading floor is designated as the principal programme; where the possibility of intersection of capital, presented by an investor meeting an innovator with an idea is available, in a stripped down form. What if we could sell stocks for entrepreneurial ideas, in a physical space, partly quotidian like that of a supermarket, and partly alluring like a casino?

Various kinds of one-on-one modes of transaction are spatially encouraged, thus attempting to insert an element of humanity in the sometimes highly abstracted realm of venture capital and investment.

Fertile ground for such a transaction point is identified at an intersection in Wynberg, Johannesburg; which currently lies suspended along a highly-trafficked pedestrian movement route between Alexandra and Sandton, and is earmarked for a future transport interchange. The programmes of transaction are vertically punctured by a circulation vein to the proposed bus terminal below the site, revealing the processes of seed capital generation for a passing commuter or visitor:

Ultimately, if capital has a wall around it (literally and figuratively), perhaps architecture could put a door in it; in doing so making cognizant the presence of the wall; and therefore the possibly to transverse through it.

Project type: Architecture, Publication
Download link: http://hdl.handle.net/10539/17845
Investigatory Themes: Money Institutions, Financial accessibility, Privatised Enclave, Crowd-funding, Seed capital, Transport interchange, Casino, Stock exchange, Heterotopia, Informal / Formal
Collaborators / Advisors: Thesis Advisor: Kirsten Doermann
Project Year: 2014
Location: Wynberg/Alexandra, Johannesburg

Ideas Bank Ideas Bank Ideas Bank

Pigment Polygraph

Pigment Polygraph

Written by: Sumayya Vally

Polygraph: a palimpsest pigment factory: a colour plant as a recording device for the sedimented scars on Johannesburg’s mining landscape

Submission by Sumayya Vally as part of Masters of Architecture Professional Thesis Dissertation at the University of the Witwatersrand:

The mining that gave rise to Johannesburg as a city has left in its wake pieces of geologically disturbed, disused, and unusable land. These leftover fragments of landscape carry with them, not only memory of the city’s foundations, but scars of the mining processes that now render them unusable - Not only do these vague-scapes have potential for the memory within them to be unearthed, but they are highly polluted, and seek to be reimagined as productive city spaces. The chosen site, an abandoned piece of mine-land with a concealed old mine shaft; on the edge of a highway on the fringe of the CBD, is simultaneously highly visible to the city, but forgotten to it. Its positioning is unique in that it allows for the potential for the extraction of the mine pollutants and site remediation to become a highly visible process.

Understanding and uncovering layers and traces of the site as means of understanding what is possible on this highly polluted landscape became an important architectural and design generator. The architecture consolidates and reimagines the fragments of ruin, both physical and ephemeral, contained on the site, and curates the users experience through these forgotten traces. Its programme - a colour plant, which extracts useful metallic colour pigments from the contaminated earth, becomes a visceral reminder of these past traces ;and a recording device for the current consequences of past mining activity.

The approach is an almost critical speculation. The age of the picturesque landscape is no more. Our effects on the land have depleted the earth and diseased its rhythms. But these unstable consequences hold possibilities that can be engaged with imaginatively; rather than merely re-mediated. How can architecture engage with this instability?

The project accepts the presence of rising acid mine water; and imagines a new reality emerging from it. The project is a comment on our own epoch; one where waste, toxicity and radiation are so rife, that they are now a quiet, sinister backdrop to our world. More than an apocalyptic future, this project deals with a dystopian present.
The precarious site conditions pose questions for an architecture which can engage with the instability, and not merely withstand it. The architectural concern is to render visible and intensify a consciousness of these traces, to investigate a palimpsest infrastructure.

Colour, like architecture is a link between the conscious and the subconscious. It is a mediator between the realms. It holds possibilities for suggesting and moulding atmospheres and perceptions.

The architecture negotiates all the realms, concerned with past, present and future.
It consolidates and makes apparent the traces but it is also developed with an awareness that it becomes part of these traces. It is an intervention which aims to heighten an awareness of the presence of the past in the life of the city; and also as palimpsest infrastructure; as a recording device for the geological happenings of the earth.

Project type: Architecture, Publication
Download link: http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/handle/10539/17567
Investigatory Themes: Toxicity, Colour, Acid Mine Drainage, Apocalyptic Landscape, Subconcious, Traces
Collaborators / Advisors: Thesis Advisor: Hannah le Roux
Project Year: 2014
Location: Village Main, South East Johannesburg

Pigment Polygraph

The Doorn Paperback Project

The Doorn Paperback Project

Written by: Amina Kaskar

Abandoned Pages, Unsettled Space: An urban dialogue created through literary practice in contemporary Doornfontein

Submission by Amina Kaskar as part of Masters of Architecture Professional Thesis Dissertation at the University of the Witwatersrand:

Architecture is the appreciation for story-telling; fiction and literature, history, culture and conversation. It entails the unfolding of a plot, unfamiliar places and eccentric characters. These do not merely exist on dusty old pages in books but are an integral part of our imagination - our subconscious design. This report explores the role of the architect as the reader; and so, this thesis forms what I have ‘read’ this year.

This thesis aims to interpret literature as a design methodology in order to understand site and develop a suitable architectural language. The process of oral traditions, written text and digitalised technology are used to deconstruct systems and principles that document change in architecture and the city.

This project, The Doorn Paperback Project is located in a contested area set within the in-between yard spaces of New Doornfontein. The unsightly nature of the site gives rise to ephemeral slumming. The cracks that exist within the formal urban fabric are atypically inhabited by the marginalised. These hidden narratives of the people living on the site create new meaning to these abandoned and derelict spaces. The way in which people ‘hack’ the site and use it in ways opposed to what was originally intended forms the reality for which the architecture exists.

The architecture needs to ‘tear down’ and ‘dismantle’ formal conditions on the site in order to mediate a space in which ‘life’ can be reinvigorated into the space. Thus the introduction of a literary program responds well to the educational and industrial conditions on the site.

Project type: Architecture, Publication
Download link: http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/jspui/handle/10539/17871
Investigatory Themes: In-between, Read, Narrative, Oral Recounts, Story-Telling, Fiction, Literature
Collaborators / Advisors: Thesis Advisor: Hannah le Roux
Project Year: 2014
Location: Doornfontein, Johannesburg

The Doorn Paperback Project The Doorn Paperback Project

About

Counterspace is a Johannesburg-based collaborative studio of young architecture graduates, established in 2014 by Sarah de Villiers, Amina Kaskar and Sumayya Vally. Counterspace is dedicated to research-based projects, which take the form of exhibition design, competition work, urban insurgency, and public events. Their work is predominantly concerned with ideas for future and otherness; playing with image and narrative as a means of deconstructing and reconstructing space and city, ultimately with the aim to incite provocative thought around perceptions of Johannesburg.

In 2015, the firm was invited to participate in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, where they showcased their work entitled ‘Lost and Found’, in collaboration with photographer Jason Larkin. Counterspace has also been involved in a multitude of graphic and curatorial work with Local Studio, and the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand; as well as intensive social-spatial research on the eastern peripheries of Johannesburg CBD.

Online Media Links:
Uncubed Magazine
2015
‘From Agency to Urgency: Experiments in the Impossible at the first Chicago Architecture biennial’

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

Future Cape Town
6 April 2016
‘Counterspace: A new way of practising architecture’

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

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

Exhibitions

Counterspace has participated in production and curation of a multitude of exhibitions, their skill set involving graphic design, technical drawing and rendering, book layout design, writing, display stand design, supplier liaison and installation & project management. They have been involved in the following projects:

La Biennale di Venezia, South African Pavillion
May 2014 – November 2014
Sale d’Armi, Venice
S. Vally as assistant curator

‘Wits ArchiMart’
May 2015
Point of Order, Braamfontein
S. de Villiers, B. Hirson M. Flanagan, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
An exhibition of works by the Master of Architecture class of 2014 at the University of the Witwatersrand.

National Corobrik Exhibition: Idea Bank
April 2015
Maslow Hotel Sandton
S. de Villiers
An exhibition of regional entry to the annual national architecture competition of competing architectural schools around South Africa.

‘Lost and Found’ S. de Villiers, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
October 2015 - January 2016. Chicago Cultural Centre.

‘Additions and Alterations’ Johannesburg
November 2015
Fourthwall Books Braamfontein
S. de Villiers, M. Flanagan, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
An exhibition of recent works by Johannesburg architecture firm, Local Studio.

‘Additions and Alterations’ Cape Town
February 2016
The Architect, Cape Town City Centre
S. de Villiers, M. Flanagan, A. Kaskar, S. Vally
An exhibition of recent works by Johannesburg architecture firm, Local Studio.

‘ShowOff Exhibition 2016’ Johannesburg
April 2016, Fox Street Studios, Maboneng, Johannesburg.
S. de Villiers, A. Kaskar, S. Vally.
An exhibition of recent works by Johannesburg collocated firms UrbanWorks, Lorenzo Nassimbeni, Parts and Labour and Counterspace.

Team

Sarah de Villiers
M.arch (prof) (Wits)
Counterspace Johannesburg

sarah@counterspace-studio.com
Instagram: se_dv
+27 84 958 1969

In her submittal of her thesis for Masters of Architecture; entitled “Idea Bank: From Watt Street to Wall Street, Wynberg Johannesburg” (University of the Witwatersrand), Sarah made use of various spatial and artistic modes for exploration, offering re-imaginings of versions of social exchange; and exploring of the fantastical heterotopias of money spaces and their power in the city. The thesis won the regional Corobrik of the Year award for 2014. Sarah’s entry in the ‘Bluprints of Paradise’ competition held in the Netherlands; which dealt with reconceptualising the future of suburban utopia, received an honourable mention award in 2010.

Amina Kaskar
M.arch (prof) (Wits)
Counterspace Johannesburg

amina@counterspace-studio.com
Instagram: amina_kaskar
+27 83 301 0996

With particular interests embedded in textual and semantic understandings of a city’s layering; Amina provides valuable agility in handling symbolic analyses of urban fabric; and decoding. Her thesis, completed in 2014; illustrates this agility fully; where the stories and myths of Doornfontein, Johannesburg, are rewrapped and rescripted into new forms of digital urban story telling. Following completion of her thesis, Amina was awarded a travelling bursary to Pune, India; in January 2015, under the ‘Study India Programme’.

Sumayya Vally
M.arch (prof) (Wits)
Counterspace Johannesburg

Sumayya@counterspace-studio.com
Instagram: sumi_v
+27 82 754 4551

Digital collage and a forensic approach to space expose Sumayya’s particular obsession with future ruin; fictional future space; pitted against the ever emerging and disappearing image of Johannesburg. Whether unpacking the city through a microscope; or satellite imagery; Sumayya has a particular interest in exposing parts of its constituency which are largely invisible. Her interests have admitted her into a host of prominent conceptual/investigatory projects; including a position as assistant curator and film producer for La Biennale di Venezia 2014 (South African Pavilion). Sumayya currently teaches at the University of Johannesburg; tutoring Unit 12 of the Graduate School of Architecture (as part of CROSSINGS, a three-year research on the ‘edges’ of Africa, headed by Dr. Lesley Lokko).

Collaborators

Counterspace pursues work which involves collaboration with a wide spectrum of artists, researchers, architects and urban practitioners; in an effort to access space and the city through unconventional avenues. People we have worked with in the past include:

Spatial Practitioners:
1to1 Agency for Engagement
Atmos Studio
Blanca Calvo Boixet
Brett Hirson
Future Cape Town
Simon Mayson
Stephen Steyn
Thomas Chapman
Urban Works

Photographers:
Dave Southwood
Jabulani Khwela
Jason Larkin
Melissa Bennett

Artists:
Bettina Malcomess
Henn+Honeyball
Io Makandal Scheiss
Lorenzo Nassimbeni
Michael Tymbios
Parts and Labour
Mai Mai Community
Mdu Mphethephethe

Academic Institutions:
School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits Archimart, Yeoville stories)
Wits School of the Arts (Wits Archimart)

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Contact

Counterspace:

Email:

info@counterspace-studio.com


Tel:

+27 83 301 0996 (Amina)
+27 84 958 1969 (Sarah)
+27 82 754 4551 (Sumayya)


Address:

Fox Street Studios
First Floor
280 Fox Street Studios
City and Suburban
Johannesburg


Post:

PostNet Suite #534
Private Bag x113
Melville
2109

Social Media:

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