Counterspace is an inter-disciplinary architectural studio led by its founder and principal, Sumayya Vally.

Founded in, and obsessed by Joburg, Counterspace is searching for design expression for the continent – through design research, publishing, pedagogy, built things, buildings and other forms of architecture.

Do It Number 76

Listen closely. 1. Reach out to an old person. 2. Record a story or a song or a recipe in their mother tongue. 3. Listen to it. 4. Listen so gently that you feel the intimacy of pronunciation, the undulating nuances of atmosphere and rhythm — the music tucked under meaning in a mother-tongue. 5. Listen so fully that you taste the hardness and the softness of experience in the voice.

Notes towards a soft manifesto

We need to supplement our inventory of design language to include new ways of seeing.

  1. Traditionally, the role of architecture has been to confine or control space, shaping social experience and relations through static forms. Our architectural vocabulary and forms largely belong to a past era of static space and have not hybridized or morphed to accommodate and inspire changing spatial conditions, to include the shifting, fluid, and amorphous digital, or the history of peoples for whom movement, not stasis, is the predominant experience.
  2. Design expressions for identity and political freedoms and of the digital commons dance allegorically alongside each other. The digital commons holds possibilities for finding architectures for both migration and subverting control, forms of representation alongside themes of diaspora and hybridity, and all that which is fluid, shifting, undefined, continuously redefining, evolving, and mutating.
  3. The relationship between our experi-ences, our mental images and our physical existences are never settled; all of these continuously form, inform and undo each other. There is no truly objective way of seeing.
  4. Translating modes of discourse –  encountered “friction”, the aesthetics of absence.
  5. Looking for design waiting to happen.
  6. Make the most of very little – of being able to piece together ideas from leftovers, fragments, and to speculate with what we have around us. I want my work to embody its place.