The Bartlett School of Architecture


Sumayya Vally Appointed Honorary Professor of Practice at The Bartlett School of Architecture

3 February 2023

The renowned architect’s appointment recognises her major contributions to architectural practice through her award-winning architectural design, art practice and social engagement.

Image: Sumayya Vally - by Lou Jasmine

The Bartlett’s Honorary Professor appointments engage the knowledge and expertise of professional practitioners whose work and achievements reflect and help to progress the pedagogy and values of The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, and enable them to collaborate with Bartlett staff and contribute to the life and academic practice of the school. Honorary Professors of Practice, the role to which Sumayya Vally has been appointed, are accomplished practitioners who lend their professional and industrial experience and knowledge to the school.

Since graduating with honours from the University of the Witwatersrand’s M.Arch Architecture programme, Sumayya Vally has built a global career and reputation as an architect, advocate, ambassador, design leader and teacher, using a multidisciplinary approach to architectural practice to confront increasingly complex social and ecological challenges. As a female Muslim practitioner from the Global South, her success in a sector that still has a long way to go to achieve racial, social and gender equity tells a hopeful story about the possibilities for the industry, and aligns with UCL and The Bartlett’s core values and vision for the present and future of teaching and professional practice.

As Principal of her Johannesburg-based design/research studio Counterspace, she designed the 20th Serpentine Pavilion (2020/2021) – the youngest ever architect to receive this commission, her design drew reference from the experiences of London's migrant communities. In 2021 she was the only architect on The Time100 Next List. The list, which gathers emerging leaders, pioneers and creators ‘poised to make history’, identified her as ‘shaping the future of the architectural canon and practice’. She is the Artistic Director of the first Islamic Arts Biennale in the Middle East, which is open now through 23 April 2023, and 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.

Sumayya also taught at the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, leading the Master’s programme’s Unit 12 design studio, founded on an intent to create a curriculum for the African continent. She has lectured widely and is frequently an invited speaker in prestigious art and architecture institutions globally, most recently Harvard University and Royal College of Art.  

Sumayya will contribute to the Professional Practice Stream across The Bartlett School of Architecture and its Architecture MSci (ARB/RIBA Part 1 & 2) programme, which will benefit from her experience in professional practice, art and social engagement. She will help to broaden and bolster collaboration between established communities within and beyond UCL, and bring her expertise and cultural grounding in African and Islamic contexts to help develop existing dialogues throughout UCL on race, gender, and decolonisation across multiple faculties. 

More information

Image:  Sumayya Vally, by Lou Jasmine, courtesy of Counterspace