Architect Sumayya Vally. Picture: Facebook
Architect Sumayya Vally. Picture: Facebook

South African Sumayya Vally named in 2021 Time 100 Next list

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Feb 18, 2021

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Vivian Warby

South African architect Sumayya Vally, 30, - who has fought hard to develop a design language that celebrates Africa - has been named in the 2021 Time100next, the list that recognises leaders of tomorrow.

“Everyone on this list is poised to make history,” says Dan Macsai, editorial director of the TIME100. “And in fact, many already have.”

Vally’s drive has always been to develop a design language that acknowledges and celebrates the African continent and she has dedicated her career to pushing against conventional architecture practises to “carve out a new design language for the African continent that celebrates its varied textures and cultures”.

With a mantra of “I want to build differently”, Valley is a firm believer in the social impact of urban design.

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Breaking the mould that says architecture belongs to the West, Valley told TIME: “There is so much that has been taken away from us (Africa) or erased or ravaged on the continent... In looking at these other ways of being, there is so much design waiting to happen.”

Born and raised in apartheid Pretoria, she described to the long walks from her migrant grandfather’s store in inner city Johannesburg to the uptown library, saying those were formative parts of her childhood.

She had felt struck by the juxtaposition between the imposing Italianate structure of the library and the rich textures of the city’s streets. She also highlighted the obstacles of being “a woman and a woman of colour and in this profession”.

The Time100NEXT is not the first time Vally has received international acclaim. Her female-led firm, Counterspace, which was formed in 2015, is a collaborative studio, and under Vally’s lead has completed architectural projects, exhibitions, urban research, and urban design projects around the world.

Last year Counterspace made history as the youngest architects chosen to design the 2020 pavilion for London’s Serpintine Galleries. Because of Covid-19 it was postponed to this summer in the UK.

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