Sumayya Vally at the Western Hajj Terminal. Photo by by Marco Cappelletti

Sumayya Vally named emerging architect of the year at Dezeen Awards 2023

South African architect Sumayya Vally has been named emerging architect of the year at this week's Dezeen Awards 2023 ceremony.

The Designers of the Year rewards the best emerging and established talent across architecture, interiors and design. It recognises those whose innovative work has made a notable impact on the industry.

Vally picked up the prize at the Dezeen Awards 2023 party this week, which was hosted in partnership with Bentley.


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Sumayya Vally was named emerging architect of the year at Dezeen Awards 2023

Growing up in Pretoria, Vally studied architecture in Johannesburg and in 2015 founded her own interdisciplinary studio Counterspace. The studio specialises in architecture and research with offices in Johannesburg and London.

In an interview with Dezeen, Vally explained that her studio was founded out of a desire to create the type of architecture she felt was missing from her formal education.

OMA's backdrop for the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in the Western Hajj Terminal at Jeddah airport
The Islamic Arts Biennale was hosted in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Marco Cappelletti

Vally was recently named one of Time magazine's 100 leaders of the future and was appointed as artistic director of the first Islamic Arts Biennale, which took place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The event aims to celebrate Islamic art and culture while exploring "spirituality in the aesthetic realm" in a bid to build an understanding of both Muslim art and the wider Muslim world.

Vally took home the award at the Dezeen Awards 2023 ceremony this week, which was held at Shoreditch Electric Light Station in London and was attended by shortlisted studios along with past and present judges.

"An emerging star, South African architect Sumayya Vally is one of the world's most exciting young architects," said the judges.

"She has gone from strength to strength, designing installations and bridges as well as being artistic director for the first Islamic Arts Biennale. Expect big things in the future."

Serpentine Pavilion by Counterspace
Vally was selected to design the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion. Photo by Iwan Baan

At 30, Vally went on to become the youngest architect to be commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery to design its annual architecture pavilion in 2021.

The pavilion is made up of abstract elements and details informed by the architecture of London's migrant communities.

The structure was designed to have a minimal carbon footprint and reportedly absorbed 31 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, according to construction consultant AECOM.

Render of the Asiat-Darse bridge
Vally designed a sculptural pedestrian bridge called Asiat-Darse. Visuals courtesy of Counterspace

Another recent project by Vally is the Asiat-Darse bridge in Belgium, which comprises a series of boat-like forms tied together to form the bridge's undulating structure.

The pedestrian bridge, which was developed as a homage to the Congolese agriculturist Paul Panda Farnana, was informed by the sculptural form of "the water architectures of the Congo".

Portrait of Sumayya Vally
Vally was named emerging architect at Dezeen Awards 2023. Photo by Lou Jasmine

Vally was up against five other shortlisted studios in the emerging architect of the year category, including Niger-based Atelier Masōmī and Austrian firm Studio Precht.

The Designers of the Year were nominated and shortlisted by Dezeen Awards judges and Dezeen's editorial team.

A total of 31 studios, spanning 14 countries including South Africa, India, Nigeria and Mexico, were shortlisted for awards in six distinct Designers of the Year categories.

Each category's winner will be showcased in an exclusive video produced by Dezeen and sponsored by Bentley. The videos will be unveiled on Dezeen from November 30 to December 7.

Dezeen Awards 2023

Dezeen Awards celebrates the world's best architecture, interiors and design. Now in its sixth year, it has become the ultimate accolade for architects and designers across the globe. The annual awards are in partnership with Bentley Motors, as part of a wider collaboration that will see the brand work with Dezeen to support and inspire the next generation of design talent.