Counterspace is a design research practice based between Johannesburg and London, led by its principal, Sumayya Vally.

In search of expression for hybrid identities and contested territories, our current projects are focused on expressions for African and Islamic hybrid identities – both rooted and diasporic.

About Counterspace

Counterspace is inspired by its location, Johannesburg and is committed to developing design form and expression particularly for the continent – through design research, publishing, pedagogy, built things, buildings and other forms of architecture.

The studio occupies a space between the functional and the speculative; pedagogy and praxis; simultaneously describing cities and their histories and futures, and imagining them. An exploration into evolving methods of collaborative practice and research, it operates adjacent to the academy, with Sumayya leading Unit 12 at the Graduate School of Architecture, Johannesburg and collaborations on several research projects with the City. 

Sumayya Vally’s design, research and pedagogical practice is searching for expression for hybrid identities and territory, particularly for African and Islamic conditions. Her design process is often forensic, and draws on the aural, performance, the supernatural, and the overlooked as generative places of history and work.

A TIME100 Next List honouree, named as a figure who will shape the future of architectural canon and practice; and designer of the 20th Serpentine Pavilion (2020/2021), Vally is the youngest architect ever to be commissioned for the internationally renowned architecture programme. She has recently worked on initiating and developing Support Structures for Support Structures, a new fellowship programme launched at the Serpentine, which supports artists and collectives who support community through their work at the intersections of art and social justice, art and the archive and art and ecology. Sumayya has also recently been named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and serves on several boards through her interest in dynamic forms of archive and supporting new networks of knowledge in the arts.

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Gradient overlay swatches/timestamps of Johannesburg skies taken from Folded Skies

All copyright © Counterspace Studio, 2021