Founded in Johannesburg in 2015 by the all-women team of South African designers Sumayya Vally (Pretoria, 1990), Amina Kaskar (Durban, 1990) and Sarah de Villiers (Johannesburg, 1990), Counterspace offers a heterogeneous range of services: architecture exhibition design, art installation visualisation, public events curation and urban design.
Projects begin with the cultural, social and environmental matrix of the city where their adventure began, Johannesburg. At Counterspace, professional practice and conceptual research mainly concern the exploration and deepening of inclusivity, otherness and future. Working at a crossroads of disciplines, Vally, Kaskar and de Villiers activate each new initiative by extracting from the complex substrate of Johannesburg the primary codes needed to develop a design language that is properly African. This operation sometimes attains alchemical connotations.
The outdoor installation Folded Skies(2018-2019) in Stellenbosch, for example, was inspired by the iridescent qualities of South African cities and landscapes, which is sometimes heightened by the chemical compounds in the cities’ mining dust. Counterspace applied those same pigment compounds (copper, aluminium, cobalt and ferrous oxide) to large metal disks that capture the vivid, changing hues of South African light from sunrise to sunset.
Then there is “Play Africa Maker” (2018), a playful exhibit to promote creativity in children. A diverse set of materials and colours provides children with modular shapes with which they can build creatures and settings. Easy to reconfigure, the set can be transported by truck and reassembled in rural and urban areas to function as an element of congregation for communities, somewhat like a small city.