Principal of the award-winning architecture and research, Counterspace—Vally’s design, research and pedagogical practice is searching for expression for hybrid identities and territory, particularly for African and Islamic conditions—both rooted and diasporic. Her design process is often forensic, and draws on the aural, performance and the overlooked as generative places of history and work.
In 2022, 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, and, as a TIME100 Next list honoree, has been identified as someone who will shape the future of architectural practice and canon. She recently joined the World Monuments Fund Board of Directors, and serves on several boards through her interest in dynamic forms of archive, embodied heritage and supporting new networks of knowledge in the arts.
In 2019, Counterspace was invited to design the 20th Serpentine Pavilion in London, making Vally the youngest architect ever to win this internationally renowned commission. With the Serpentine, she has initiated and developed a new fellowship program, Support Structures for Support Structures, which assists artists and collectives working at the intersection of art with social justice, the archive, and ecology. As Artistic Director, Vally is currently working on curating the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale taking place in Jeddah in 2023. She is 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 6 years (2015- 2021), 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 taught and lectured widely, most recently as Pelli Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Vally leads a new masters’ programme, Hijra, at the Royal College of Art and is an Honorary Professor of Practice at The Bartlett School of Architecture.