Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace

Serpentine Gallery 11 June 2020 — 17 October 2021 Free

For the first time since the annual architecture programme was founded in 2000 the Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Johannesburg-based practice Counterspace, has been extended into a two-year commission.

Counterspace’s design will be based on gathering spaces and community places around the city, folding London into the Pavilion structure in Kensington Gardens. The shapes of the Pavilion are created from a process of addition, superimposition, subtraction and splicing of architectural forms, directly transcribed from existing spaces with particular relevance to migrant and other peripheral communities in London, including Brixton, Edgware Road, Barking and Dagenham and Hoxton.

Sumayya Vally of Counterspace said of the design:

“We’ve always relied on places of gathering to come together and we miss them when they’re gone. COVID-19 has brought the Pavilion themes of community and gathering sharply into focus. The pavilion is itself conceived as an event — the coming together of a variety of forms from across London over the course of the Pavilion’s sojourn. These forms are imprints of some of the places, spaces and artefacts which have made care and sustenance part of London’s identity. The breaks, gradients and distinctions in colour and texture between different parts of the Pavilion make this reconstruction and piecing together legible at a glance. As an object, experienced through movement, it has continuity and consistency, but difference and variation are embedded into the essential gesture at every turn.”

Serpentine Pavilion 2021 is curated by Natalia Grabowska, Assistant Curator

Sumayya Vally

Sumayya Vally (b. 1990, South Africa) carries obsession for Johannesburg and her work around narrative, identity and memory in the city have admitted her into a host of conceptual and investigatory projects, including a position as assistant curator and film producer for La Biennale di Venezia 2014 (South African Pavilion). Sumayya has recently been selected as a finalist (top 3) for the Civitella Ranieri Foundation architecture residency prize (2019) and was a finalist for the Rolex Mentorship and Protege award (2018/2019).

Sumayya’s design, research and pedagogical practice is committed to finding expression for hybrid identities and contested territories. She is in love with Johannesburg. It serves as her laboratory for finding speculative histories, futures, archaeologies, and design languages; with the intent to reveal the invisible. Her work is often forensic, and draws on performance, the supernatural, the wayward and the overlooked as generative places of history and work. She is presently based between Johannesburg and London as the lead designer for the Serpentine Pavilion 2020/20 Plus 1.


Counterspace is a Johannesburg-based collaborative architectural studio led by Sumayya Vally.

Counterspace is inspired by its location – Johannesburg – and is committed to developing design 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 of the Graduate School of Architecture Johannesburg and collaborations on several research projects with the City.

Counterspace also runs Counterparts, an interdisciplinary space, residency, dialogue and publishing platform, with an interest in tracing, seeding and carving collaborative ways of working.


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