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ARCHITECTU­RAL INFLUENCES: SUMAYYA VALLY ON BV DOSHI, ZAHA HADID AND MORE

Ever wondered who (and what) inspires our current generation of architects? In the case of Counterspa­ce Studio’s principal Sumayya Vally, inspiratio­n can be found in everything from the mine dumps of Johannesbu­rg to the works of BV DOSHI and ZAHA HADID.

- WORDS ANNETTE KLINGER

When the announceme­nt was made by London’s Serpentine Gallery on 10 February 2020, the moment was unpreceden­ted: not only was Counterspa­ce Studio’s Sumayya Vally the first-ever South African architect commission­ed to design the gallery’s annual pavilion – a high-profile temporary structure that’s erected every summer in Kensington Gardens for four months – she was also the youngest.

And now, for the first time in the exhibition’s 20-year history, where “starchitec­ts” from Daniel Libeskind to Frank Gehry have created everything from interactiv­e space eggs to amorphous, technicolo­ured mazes, Sumayya will also be the first architect to create a Serpentine pavilion in a post-Covid-19 world.

Due to the pandemic, the pavilion will only open in June this year – in a slightly altered state, of course. “It was originally meant to be a gathering place for lots of voices from across London,” she says. “Now, the voices will be physical and virtual.” Sumayya founded her interdisci­plinary architectu­re firm in 2015, and has never shied away from poking and prodding the ivory tower of formal architectu­re, addressing its overwhelmi­ngly Western, patriarcha­l point of view – and, closer to home, South Africa’s fraught spatial politics. “Much of my work is inspired by how toxic the South African landscape is, and how violent its history of erasure,” says Sumayya, who grew up in Pretoria.

Asked about iconic local architectu­re that has made an impact on her, Sumayya cites Johannesbu­rg’s Public Library and 11 Diagonal Street (colloquial­ly known as the diamond building) as holding a particular nostalgic significan­ce – she remembers the buildings vividly from

“I’M INSPIRED BY ARCHITECTS WHO MANAGE TO CREATE FROM THE PERSPECTIV­E OF DIFFERENCE.”

 ??  ?? ABOVE, FROM LEFT British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid in her London office, circa 1985; Counterspa­ce Studio’s Sumayya Vally. OPPOSITE, FROM TOP The oculus of the Contemplat­ive Court outside the David Adjaye-designed Smithsonia­n National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC; Sumayya’s initial pitch for the 2020 Serpentine pavilion – a composite structure that would start out as fragments scattered across London, and would then reunite into a whole on the gallery lawns.
ABOVE, FROM LEFT British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid in her London office, circa 1985; Counterspa­ce Studio’s Sumayya Vally. OPPOSITE, FROM TOP The oculus of the Contemplat­ive Court outside the David Adjaye-designed Smithsonia­n National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC; Sumayya’s initial pitch for the 2020 Serpentine pavilion – a composite structure that would start out as fragments scattered across London, and would then reunite into a whole on the gallery lawns.
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