Sonali and Manit Rastogi Founder & Partners, Morphogenesis

Sonali and Manit Rastogi Founder & Partners, Morphogenesis
May 2017 , by , in Interviews
Sonali, Manit, Ananya and Aman Rastogi photographed at their residence in New Delhi, India on Sunday, 15 April 2015 (Photo Jatinder Marwaha)

Sonali, Manit, Ananya and Aman Rastogi photographed at their residence in New Delhi, India on Sunday, 15 April 2015 (Photo Jatinder Marwaha)

We started Morphogenesis in 1996 as a two-person practice working out of a tiny garage, with no certainty of how the future would unravel for us, yet with complete clarity of purpose- to contribute to the definition of and to build a global discourse on contemporary Indian Architecture.

We have always looked to the processes in nature – being responsive to context, maximum efficiency with minimum waste, closed loop – to define our work and organizational structure. At Morphogenesis, we feel most strongly about sustainability – sustainability not understood as purely energy, but environmental, social, cultural and financial sustainability. This has elicited varied architectural responses from us, which sit within the continuum of the history of the region as an investigation into sustainability through three pillars- passive design, resource optimization and contextual identity.

It has been a fruitful, rewarding 20 years and Morphogenesis is now a collaborative of 130 people with our work spread across South Asia and Africa, the global recognition of our work cementing our faith in our vision. The Morphogenesis philosophy has not changed, but has evolved, as should everything. The vision stays the same yet the tools keep evolving, where experience adds to thought and the canvases grow larger.

With all these years behind us, we shoulder a responsibility as thought leaders, which sit in a wider realm than the architecture that comes out of Morphogenesis. We push advocacy and education with our efforts on sustainable urbanism as in the case of the Nullahs of Delhi, contribution towards the formulation of GRIHA, India’s own Green rating system (Manit) and in improving Delhi’s public spaces through work with the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (Sonali).

There are some projects that have truly been milestones in either our success or in helping shape our philosophy, or both. Every project come with its challenges and if it doesn’t, then we create them, because at Morphogenesis there is a philosophy of trying to do something innovative and new with everything you work with. And it happens at different levels, sometimes it happens at all the way up to the master planning stage or all the way down to a singular detail.

Apollo Headquarters (1999) is memorable for being our first significant commission. It won us our first Indian Institute of Architect’s award and gave us conviction in our chosen path. Pearl Academy (2008) won us India’s first WAF Award, as it caught the global imagination.Having to stretch resource optimization to its limits due to budgetary constraints, through the use of using of regional ideas, it defined the direction of every project since- where we look at each from the perspective of having no energy, no water and no material. How then, do we approach design? Ever since Pearl,we have also been able to rejuvenate and use traditional crafts to a contemporary format in almost all our work.

We have a number of projects of great diversity across typology, scale, climate and cost, going on, at the moment. Particularly exciting are the ones exploring new geographies, hence new local contexts that push our understanding of sustainability- including a college in Bhutan and a residential township in Johannesburg. There is a public project under the umbrella of the Namami Gange Yojana where we have been commissioned to redesign the ghats and ancillary facilities along a significant stretch of the Ganga. We are also designing one of the world’s largest office spaces for the Surat Diamond Bourse. We have been lucky to find patrons of the aesthetics of architecture who have allowed us to explore an architect’s inherent sculptural inclination as in the case of the Zydus Corporate Headquarters currently being built in Ahmedabad.

To mark two decades of the practice, Images Publishing Australia has chosen to feature Morphogenesis in their Master Architect Series. ‘Morphogenesis: The Indian Perspective, The Global Context’ has been launched globally at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October and is releasing in India in March 2017.

What we do know is that the vision stays the same and the opportunity is immense. In that way there’s no better time than now to contribute towards the sustainable growth of this region through our work.

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