Morphogenesis The Master Architect Series | The Indian Perspective | The Global Context by Morphogenesis

November 10, 2017

Morphogenesis The Master Architect Series:  This highly anticipated new monograph delves into an exciting selection of esteemed works by Delhi-based firm Morphogenesis, one of the most productive and creative architectural firms in India and a world-leader in zero net energy and sustainable design. This richly illustrated book combines stunning imagery with a comprehensive study outlining the firm’s strong philosophical design intent across a vast range of typologies: residential; institutional; commercial; hospitality; offices; houses; interiors; public and master planning. Morphogenesis reinterprets India’s architectural roots and consistently employs passive environmental solutions for a unique, contextual contemporary language.

The Morphogenesis journey is a reflection of the contemporary Indian perspective within the global context, incorporating its inspired, forward thinking vision while respectfully referencing the spirit of traditional Indian subcontinental architecture, and all the while maintaining an intimate focus on the environmental context and culture of the project. These works bridge the gap between academic and practice, weaving together the wisdom of 5000 years of India’s past building history with current day technologies, to be highly relevant to the practice of architecture today, and contribute to an emerging identity of Brand India for architecture. Sustainability, the core philosophy of the firm is understood through the lens of Passive Design, Resource Optimization and Contextual Identity, which make up the three chapters of the book with 26 diverse projects.

FOREWORD by Michael Webb (Architectural Critic and Founder of Archigram Group): Around the world, architects are challenged to infuse new forms with the legacy of the past and the spirit of place. In an age of globalization this has become a critical issue, especially in emerging nations that have embraced generic modernism in their race to catch up. It is ironic that a few Westerners – from Edwin Lutyens to Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn – showed a greater appreciation for the unique character of Indian architecture and the demands of its climate than do many native architects. Morphogenesis is a notable exception: a versatile 125-person firm that roots its work in the environment. It abstracts the vernacular with no resort to mimicry, and it achieves sustainability by an intelligent use of traditional materials and techniques.

A NEW ARCHITECTURE by John Frazer (world leader in the domains of intelligent and interactive design): Morphogenesis has established itself as not only a leading architecture practice in India, but as an influential research-based firm, and a world leader in sustainable design by Manit and Sonali Rastogi. They aptly describe themselves as a ‘knowledge firm,’ which has research and development implications far beyond the confines of conventional architecture and is leading to a new kind of environmental response. This is not just a new typology, but an innovative conceptual basis for architecture. Their 20-year-old practice is establishing new expectations of climatic sensitivity in a social and environmental context. Twenty years is a very short time in architecture and Morphogenesis has made very rapid progress. This book is a celebration of the substantial achievements so far and gives clear indications of what is to come and a hint of the nature of the new architecture to which Manit and Sonali are committed.

The team at Morphogenesis successfully implements its design ethos effectively across all projects while it simultaneously focuses on increasing the project’s environmental sustainability, challenging the myth that green buildings are more expensive to build. The built form responds to the environment and a harmony of interdependence is maintained amid the two. It is precisely this very relationship that will not only create an architecture that is truly sustainable, but which will also build communities that are once again interconnected with nature.

Pearl Academy (Jaipur, Rajasthan): This institutional builbing is an attempt to develop an ‘architecture of somewhere’ at a time when there is a paradigm shift in architecture towards a landscape sprinkled with identity-less models of ‘generic modernism’. This project in Jaipur is geared towards creating an environmentally responsive, passive habitat. A radical fusion of traditional and contemporary architecture, the institute creates interactive spaces for a creative student body to work in multi-functional zones that blend the indoors with the outdoors seamlessly.

The introverted building design compensates for the unloved industrial nature of the site’s surroundings. This building takes an optimized rectangular form derived from Jaipur’s traditional building morphology, which is typically high density, opaque exteriors with more fluid interiors. Despite its compact, rectilinear external form, Pearl’s internal courtyard shapes provide a sense of the perpetual, infinite – a continuous and fluid space with no end; like a Mobius strip. The architecture is a confluence of modern adaptations of traditional Indo-Islamic architectural elements and passive-cooling strategies commonly used in Rajasthan’s desert climate, such as self-shading courtyards, water
bodies, baolis and jaalis (typically made of stone) to negotiate the large differential between internal and external temperatures.

The building is protected from the environment by a double skin, which is derived from a traditional building element, the jaali, which is prevalent in Rajasthani architecture. The double skin acts as a thermal buffer between the building and its surroundings. The density of the perforated outer skin has been derived using shadow analysis based on orientation of the façades. The outer skin sits 1.2 meters (4 feet)
away from the building and reduces direct heat gain through articulated fenestrations, yet allows for diffused daylight. The jaali thus, serves the
function of three filters – air, light and privacy.

Traditionally inspired low-cost methods of roof insulation have been used to cut down heat absorption. Inverted matkas (earthen pots) are laid across the surface, the space between filled with sand and bricks and then cast over with a thin, binding layer of concrete.

The Pearl Academy is an exemplar of an inclusive architecture that is socioculturally relevant and is inspired by local heritage, while positioning itself within the contemporary cultural and architectural paradigm.

Artisan House (Private Residence, New Delhi): The bespoke quality of craft, emergent from skill and handed-down traditions is a culture that speaks volumes about luxury. This luxury primarily comes from the dexterity and beauty of spatial configurations, lending the space an experiential quality.

A country as diverse as India is symbolized by the plurality of its art and culture, yet with the changing paradigm there is a need to conserve
these symbols that are under constant threat of neglect. Morphogenesis works towards re-establishing a patronage for these artisanal skills that
contribute greatly towards cultural sustainability.

The design exploits the undulating terrain on which the project is located and uses it to create split-levels. These levels are instrumental in segregating functions. While the private spaces are placed in the earth-banked lower level, spaces for public gatherings are designated to the upper level. A very strong relationship between the landscape and the residence has been established, where each indoor space has a unique outdoor space that extends its specific program. The private living is organised around a central courtyard which has a temple centrally placed in it, imbuing a spiritual omnipresence.

This residence has a strong overriding graphic language of striation, which is the dominant organising principle of the site. This banding pattern sweeps across the built volume, to create various zones and retain scale within this very large house. Each band enables a distinctive treatment of
the planes, surfaces and the volumes they subtend. It expresses itself in elevation as a series of layered walls, an artistic juxtaposition of vertical
planes. In complete contrast to these modern planes and surfaces, the detailing is replete with traditional material and craft-based nuances.  There is stone craft in one zone, metal craft in another, textiles of a certain kind in the next. The strategy of striation allows the bringing together of distinct crafts and over 50 materials without impinging on the architectural sensibility and destroying a cohesive narrative.

This house represents luxury that is redefined – luxury reminiscent of mthe past, of India being the richest repository of handcraft available
anywhere in the world; luxury in terms of freedom with experimentation that both Morphogenesis and the client embraced; and finally, the luxury of sequential exposures and experiences akin to the unfolding of space after space in a museum.

Delhi Art Gallery (Delhi/Mumbai): The DAG projects are a magnificent showcase of the creative freedom of  ‘Morphogenesis’ design expression for the nuances of a high-end retail paradigm and gallery display setting for some the best contemporary art in India. Both the Delhi and Mumbai spaces feature multi-functional and multi-dimensional areas, including library, an area for public dissemination of artworks, storage, display and offices.

The gallerist holds one of the world’s largest collections of Indian modernist art, and the DAG spaces display and store around 30,000 paintings across the two sites. The innovative design for both DAG sites is a sophisticated, calm and introspective space that frames spatial compositions distinctively into a series of reconfigurable rooms with a set of sliding panels and moveable fretted screens designed for maximum exposure and circulation of a quantum of artworks. Handcrafted metal jaalis with trelliswork augment the design with a quintessentially Indian identity.

The sliding panel system enables the works to be stacked and mounted to the wall in various arrangements, allowing the gallerist the high level of storage required without compromising aesthetics. A reconfigurable, dynamic performance space of 14 movable and 3 fixed panels that aid in the positioning of each artwork in a secluded or collective environment, depending on the requirement. This creates an event space and an experience that can display the art in an innovative, yet elegant manner.

The space in Delhi also features a full wall-sized multimedia projection screen at the entrance façade, maximising the interface between the gallery and passerby; by exhibiting the gallery collection, the pedagogy of the artist and information on the artworks themselves. Hence, the screen on the front façade virtually extends the gallery space and art becomes inclusive.

The branch at DAG Mumbai is a four-level, century-old structure sitting in a lively and historic precinct that’s undergoing strong cultural revival.
Years of terrible neglect and significant damage to this very cramped, former warehouse/repair shop building saw this project emerge and significantly transform into an impressive retrofit and adaptive reuse of splendid Colonial-era architecture.

Structurally the building required extensive renovation. Investigative design processes confirmed some of the widely used local Colonial heritage motifs for rhythmic patterns in metal and woodwork, including the exterior façade’s original wrought iron and stucco features. These elements have been interwoven here to retain heritage value but without anachronistic imitation. DAG Mumbai could be a defining example for rejuvenating other derelict historic districts in urban India.

Book : Morphogenesis The Master Architect Series | The Master Architect Series | The Global Context

Authors :  Manit Rastogi and Sonali Rastogi, Founder of Morphogenesis Architecture Firm

ISBN :  978 1 86470 662 8

Format :  235mm x 235mm

Binding :  Casebound with jacket

Pages :  224

Illustrations : Full color

In bookstores : December 2016

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