Counterspace

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.


An engagement with the dis-placement, and re-placement of peoples and place – we acknowledge sites of absence and sites of presence.

Serpentine Pavilion 2020/21 designed by Counterspace +

We need to supplement our inventory of design language to include new ways of seeing. Notes towards a soft manifesto:

  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 experiences, 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.