Joburg's Pioneering Counterspace Studio To Design 2020 Serpentine Pavilion

Amina Kaskar, Sumayya Vally and Sarah de Villiers of Counterspace are the youngest architects to be awarded the prestigious Serpentine Pavilion commission

Supplied/ Counterspace Studio

Counterspace Studio, Serpentine Pavilion

South African design communities rejoiced yesterday at the announcement that London’s Serpentine Pavilion – arguably one of architecture’s most prestigious annual commissions – will this year be designed by none other than Joburg’s Counterspace Studio. The pioneering firm is lead by Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers and Amina Kaskar, and they the youngest team of architects to take the commission in the Serpentine Pavilion’s 20-year-history. They are also the first South Africans to tackle the challenge. 

Each year the Serpentine Galleries invite an architectural firm to experiment with the idea of a pavilion, creating a platform for new ideas. Notable names that have taken on the design challenge include Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel. Continuing this tradition of bold new thinking, Counterspace announced that they would be using both innovative and traditional building techniques, for instance they will be using K-Briqs, an ecopoduct manufactured from 90% recycled construction and demolition waste resulting in just a tenth of the carbon emissions that result from the production of normal bricks.

ALSO READ: Unpacking public space in South African cities
Serpentine Pavilion, Counterspace Studio
Amina Kaskar, Sumayya Vally and Sarah de Villiers of Counterspace Studio 


‘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. The 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,’ Counterspace’s Vally explains.

ALSO READ: World Interior of the Year Announced
Counterspace Studio, Serpentine Pavilion

Counterspace Studio, Serpentine Pavilion

The architects were chosen by super-curator and the Serpentine’s artistic director, Hans Ulrich Obrist, who explained in a press statement that the Serpentine is excited to be working with Counterspace. 

‘The idea of working with different communities is very important for us and Countearspace’s proposal does this in a remarkable way,’ he said. ‘We were totally convinced by the social dimension of their practice. They bring an African perspective, an international perspective, but they are working with locations and communities right here in London and their pavilion design is inspired by that work.’ 

The pavilion will launch, as it does every year, with the Serpentine’s famous summer party in June 2020, and remain open until 11 October 2020. 

ALSO READ: Spier Wine Farm Wins International Biodiversity Award