• Serpentine Pavilion 2020–21 designed by Counterspace
    Bettina Korek and Hans Ulrich Obrist
    Serpentine Galleries, London,
    Jun–Oct 2021
    Serpentine Galleries

Serpentine Pavilion 2020-21 designed by Counterspace. Design render, interior view. Copyright Counterspace

Counterspace, directed by Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers, and Amina Kaskar collaborates with the Serpentine on a series of off-site and online research projects, culminating in the opening of the Serpentine Pavilion in summer 2021. Using both innovative and traditional building techniques, Counterspace’s design is based on gathering spaces and community places around the city, folding London into the Pavilion structure in Kensington Gardens, and extending a public program across London. The shapes of the Pavilion are created from a process of addition, superimposition, subtraction and splicing of architectural forms, directly transcribed from existing spaces with particular relevance to migrant and other peripheral communities in London. On its twentieth anniversary, more than ever, the Serpentine Pavilion is a place for debate and new ideas. Connecting to the Serpentine’s ambitious multi-platform project Back to Earth, the Pavilion and sets out to explore questions such as: how can architecture create a space where we are all linked, not ranked? How can architecture promote wellbeing? Can a structure evolve and change together with the environment? The Pavilion includes moveable small parts that will be displaced to neighborhoods across London. Following community events at these locations, the parts return to the structure, completing it over the summer. Employing a mix of low-tech and high-tech approaches to sustainability, the Pavilion is constructed from a variety of materials, including custom K-Briq-modules and cork provided by Amorim. K-Briqs are made from 90% recycled construction and demolition waste and are manufactured without firing, with a tenth of the carbon emissions of normal bricks.

Counterspace is a Johannesburg-based collaborative architectural studio, undertaking predominantly architectural projects, community engagement, exhibition and installation conceptualization and urban research and design. Counterspace is inspired by their location—Johannesburg—and aims to work with developing design expression particularly for Johannesburg and the continent—through urban research, publications, installations, and architecture. Counterspace has been involved in a number of research, graphic, and immersive design projects with national-scale stakeholders, local architects, and universities in South Africa; in addition to various cultural architectural projects in rural and urbanized South Africa, and internationally. The practice occupies a space adjacent to academic practice.

Sumayya Vally carries obsession for Johannesburg. Her work around narrative, identity, and memory in the city have admitted her into a host of conceptual and investigatory projects, including a position as assistant curator and film producer for La Biennale di Venezia 2014 (South African Pavilion). Vally was selected as a finalist for the Civitella Ranieri Foundation architecture residency prize (2019) and was a finalist for the Rolex Mentorship and Protege award (201819). She currently teaches at the Graduate School of Architecture, as Unit Leader of Unit 12, which focuses on finding design expression for issues of identity and contested territory.

Amina Kaskar has a strong interest in themes of gender, migration, ethnography and systematic networks and processes. In 2017, Kaskar was awarded the Vlir-ous Scholarship to undertake a second master’s in human settlements at KU Leuven, Belgium. Her work includes investigating spaces for arrival infrastructure for migrant communities and refugees in the Brussels North Quarter. Her advanced graduate work also dealt with issues around socioecological landscape urbanism, specifically focused within the Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador. She is also a CETA associate lecturer in the Wits School of Architecture and recently ran the Advanced Design Studio Elective for the Honors program at Wits, entitled “Housing Ecologies.”

Sarah de Villiers is interested in spatio-economic practices, as well as elements which involve “otherness”—particularly practices which embed themselves as unexpected systems, defying logics of surrounding scale, time, accessibilities, identity or broader policy environments. She has taught for three years at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg within Unit 14: Rogue Economies, concerned with emergent post-apartheid urban economies in Johannesburg, and currently leads Unit 18, Hyperreal Prototypes together with Dr. Huda Tayob which circumscribes notions of origins, the post-fake era, and authenticity in architectural production.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, where codirected since 2005. He was voted the number one most influential person in the art world by ArtReview in their annual Power 100 in 2016, and he has appeared in the top ten for more than a decade, unwaveringly considered one of the world's foremost curators. In 2009 he was made Honorary Fellow of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and in 2015 he received the International Folkwang Prize for his commitment to the arts. Obrist lectures internationally and is widely publish.

Bettina Korek is the chief executive of the Serpentine Galleries in London, which champions the possibilities of new ideas in contemporary art by presenting interdisciplinary and collaborative work across art, architecture, design, fashion and digital. She has two decades of experience as an arts leader in her hometown of Los Angeles, where she most recently was the executive director of Frieze Los Angeles.

The mission of the Serpentine Galleries is to exhibit, commission, and promote understanding of art, architecture, and design, through exhibitions, architecture, design, education, and public programs. Since 1970, the Serpentine has gained an international reputation for excellence, working with almost 3,000 artists, architects, and designers. The Galleries maintain free access, attracting up to 1.2 million visitors a year.