With a team of directors under 30, Johannesburg-based practice Counterspace is the youngest group of architects ever selected to design the Serpentine Pavilion. This year’s awaited pavilion will comprise a spliced structure, based on community spaces around the city of London.

The annual architecture commission of a temporary structure is located on the lawn outside the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington gardens. Open 11 June-11 October 2020, it will be constructed from cork and K-Briqs, which are made without firing, from 90 per cent demolition and construction waste.

The all-woman lead team is lead by its three directors, Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers and Amina Kaska who all turn 30 this year. The trio vows that the pavilion, now its 20th year, to be one of the most sustainable to date. Previous winners of the commission include Zaha Hadid, Francis Kéré, Toyo Ito and Frank Gehry.

Counterspace’s concept poses a question: How can architecture create a space where we are all linked, not ranked? In answer, Counterspace’s architectural forms will include small, moveable parts, which will eventually be used beyond Kensington Gardens to create a series of local community events, before being returned to the structure.

‘These forms are imprints of some of the places, spaces and artefacts which have made care and sustenance part of London’s identity’

Distinctions in colour and texture between different parts of the pavilion will reference migrant communities from London, such as Brixton, Hoxton, Hackney, Whitechapel, Edgware Road, Peckham, Ealing, North Kensington. Sumayya Vally says: ‘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. These forms are imprints of some of the places, spaces and artefacts which have made care and sustenance part of London’s identity.’

Serpentine Pavilion 2020 team of architects
Amina Kaskar, Sumayya Vally and Sarah de Villiers of Counterspace. Photography: Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020. © Counterspace

With the idea pointing towards inclusivity, the pavilion will be closely integrated with both the institution’s art and architecture programs this summer, connecting with the Serpentine’s ambitious multi-platform project Back to Earth that will invite artists’ response to the ever-pressing climate emergency.

Vally adds: ‘Places of memory and care in and beyond are transferred onto the Serpentine lawn. Where they intersect, they produce spaces to be together’. §