The 20th Serpentine Pavilion Designed by Counterspace, to Open on June 11th 2021

The 20th Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Johannesburg-based practice Counterspace, directed by Sumayya Vally, will finally open on 11 June 2021. After its 1-year postponement due to the global pandemic, the temporary pavilion will stay on display until 17 October 2021, on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn in Kensington Gardens.

Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Design Render, Interior View © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine GalleriesCounterspace. Photographed by Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020. © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries© Iwan Baan© Iwan Baan+ 7

While Counterspace is the 20th practice to accept the invitation to design the Serpentine pavilion, Vally, a TIME100 Next List honoree, is the youngest architect to be commissioned for this internationally renowned architecture program. Supported by Goldman Sachs, this year’s intervention is “based on past and present places of meeting, organizing and belonging across London”. As a result of abstracting, superimposing, and splicing architectural elements, the forms in the pavilion vary in the scale of intimacy. A specially commissioned sound program for the Pavilion, Listening to the City, will feature work by artists including Ain Bailey and Jay Barnard, connecting visitors to the stories and sounds of lost spaces across London.

Sumayya Vally of Counterspace. Photographed by Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020. © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries
Sumayya Vally of Counterspace. Photographed by Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020. © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries

My practice, and this Pavilion, is centred around amplifying and collaborating with multiple and diverse voices from many different histories; with an interest in themes of identity, community, belonging and gathering. The past year has drawn these themes sharply into focus and has allowed me the space to reflect on the incredible generosity of the communities that have been integral to this Pavilion. This has given rise to several initiatives that extend the duration, scale and reach of the Pavilion beyond its physical lifespan. In a time of isolation, these initiatives have deepened the Pavilion’s intents toward sustained collaboration, and I am excited to continue this engagement with the Serpentine’s civic and education teams and our partners over the summer and beyond.–  Sumayya Vally of Counterspace.


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Set to open on 11 June 2021, the project translates the shapes of London into the structure, referencing the architecture of places of worship, markets, restaurants, bookshops, and local cultural institutions that are particularly relevant to migrant communities in neighborhoods such as Brixton, Hoxton, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Edgware Road, Barking and Dagenham, Peckham and Notting Hill, among others. In fact, during summer, fragments of the intervention will be installed in neighborhoods across the city, to support and facilitate gatherings and impromptu interactions, to honor the history of places that have held communities over time. “A specially commissioned programme for the Pavilion, Listening to the City, will feature work by artists including Ain Bailey and Jay Bernard, connecting visitors to the stories and sounds of lost spaces across London“.

Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Design Render, Exterior View © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries
Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Design Render, Exterior View © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries

We look forward with great excitement to welcoming London to this remarkable space this June. Our deepest appreciation goes to Sumayya Vally and to all our supporters and contractors for their enduring commitment to the Serpentine Pavilion. The spirit of community that has carried us as an institution throughout such a challenging year is the same that we hope to enliven this project. Here’s to a new chapter. — Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, and Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, Serpentine.

Counterspace. Photographed by Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020. © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries
Counterspace. Photographed by Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020. © Counterspace. Image Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries

Counterspace is a Johannesburg-based collaborative architectural studio, directed by Sumayya Vally, founded in Johannesburg in 2015. Much of their work emerges from research and interdisciplinary arts-based projects, undertaking predominantly architectural projects, community engagement, exhibition, and installation conceptualization, and urban research, design, and intervention. Their work is concerned with inclusivity, otherness, and future; and often intersects with other creative disciplines to form innovative approaches to design challenges.

News via Serpentine Galleries.