Sumayya Vally in conversation with Dean Sarah Whiting

Photo of the Counterspace Serpentine Pavilion.

A recording of this event is available with audio description.

Event Description

Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture, will sit down with architect Sumayya Vally for an intimate conversation about design practice, pedagogy, and research.


Headshot of Sumayya Vally, who sits on a balcony above a busy street.
Photo by Mikhael Subotzky.

Sumayya Vally was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1990. 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 and the overlooked as generative places of history and work.  

She is the co-founder and principal of the award-winning architecture and research studio, Counterspace. A TIME100 Next List honouree, Sumayya Vally is named as shaping the future of the 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 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. In 2022 Sumayya Vally was selected by the World Economic Forum to be one of its Young Global Leaders, a community of the world’s most promising artists, researchers, entrepreneurs, activists, and political leaders. 

As Artistic Director, Vally is currently working on curating the first Islamic Arts Biennale taking place in Jeddah in 2023. She is currently collaborating on the design of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development in Monrovia, Liberia, the first presidential library dedicated to a female head of state, where she will oversee the scenography, pavilions, and exhibition spaces. She is also working on a garden and gathering place commemorating the 5th Pan-African Congress held in Manchester, UK, in 1945. 

Sumayya’s practice operates adjacent to the academy. For six years she led the masters’ studio, Unit 12, at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg—founded by Professor Lesley Lokko, with the intent to create a curriculum for the African continent. She has lectured widely, most recently as Pelli Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

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