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Amina Kaskar, Sumayya Vally and Sarah de Villiers of Counterspace in Johannesburg, 2020. Photo: Justice Mukheli. Courtesy of Counterspace.

Counterspace to Design London’s Twentieth Serpentine Pavilion

The South African architectural firm Counterspace has been selected to design the 2020 Serpentine Pavilion. The Johannesburg-based practice, which is run by three women, Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers, and Amina Kaskar—the youngest architects ever to be commissioned for the project—drew inspiration from London’s migrant communities for its proposal. Now in its twentieth year, the pavilion will be installed in Kensington Gardens and will be on view from June 11 to October 11, 2020.

Known for using innovative and traditional building techniques, Counterspace will use both low-tech and high-tech approaches to sustainability to build the structure, which will be made of a diverse range of materials, including custom K-Briq-modules, which consist of 90 percent recycled construction materials and demolition waste. Since the bricks don’t need to be fired, they produce a tenth of the carbon emissions of standard fired bricks. The pavilion will also be built with cork, provided by Amorim, which can be harvested from bark without having to cut down trees.

Design rendering of an interior view of the 2020 Serpentine Pavilion. Courtesy of Counterspace.

Parts of the pavilion will be dispatched to Brixton, Hoxton, Hackney, Whitechapel, Ealing, and North Kensington, among other areas in the city, and will be the focus of community programming before they return to Kensington Gardens and are added to the main structure. “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,” said Vally, the lead architect on the project. “These forms are imprints of some of the places, spaces, and artifacts which have made care and sustenance part of London’s identity.”

Commenting on the project, Serpentine Galleries artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist said: “The idea of working with different communities is very important for us and Counterspace’s proposal does this in a remarkable way; 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.”

Design rendering of an exterior view of the 2020 Serpentine Pavilion. Courtesy of Counterspace.

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