Morphogenesis and Sonali Rastogi

May 10, 2014

Sonali Rastogi
Senior Partner, Morphogenesis
Graduated from the School of Planning and Architecture (New Delhi) and The Architectural Association (London) with a graduate diploma in Housing and Urbanism and a second graduate diploma in Graduate Design, Sonali is Co-Founder and Senior Partner of Morphogenesis, one of India’s leading award-winning Architecture and Urban Design practices based in New Delhi, India. Morphogenesis has been ranked yet again, for the third time running, among the Top 100 Architectural Design Firms worldwide by Building Design Magazine, UK in WA100, 2014. The practice is the recipient of over 54 awards and has featured in over 340 publications, both International and National.
  Do you have a signature style? If so how would you describe it

Morphogenesis signature style has been to keep addressing from first principles, the need of an emergent and evolving economy and the resultant requirements. Though visually disparate the architecture of Morphogenesis carries a sustainable backbone and is constantly striving to achieve an architecture which is global as well as Indian at the same time.

  A landmark project for Morphogenesis.

This is a hard question for any architect to answer, as quite often, the projects are totally immersive, some agreeably a little bit more immersive than the others and at that point they encapsulate the entire mental evolution of the individual as well as of the firm. So in many ways, the landmark project could be the first project or first substantial project. It could be the most award winning project. It could be the one that encapsulated a certain personal philosophy extremely well or it could be the one that catches the world’s imagination. So it’s very hard to say or pick on any one. I would just say that the body of work of Morphogenesis is something that collectively inspires me to think further and deeper for every new problem that comes along the way.
  How or where do you see the influence of culture on architecture in present India.

Being an Indian, however ignorant, one recognizes the fact that culture is omnipresent, it is. For a land and for a people as historic as Indians, being an Indian is itself an a prior acceptance of deep seated culture. So, being Indian is itself an influence on architecture that you will generate. So I think culture is omnipresent. When we see appalling blue glass, green glass towers emerging, I would even say at one level that it is the culture of the current Indian. They are kind of going through a paradigm shift and many get displaced in that paradigm for a while, I hope, and start aping other cultures. But I do think that these are short lived phases and they are insignificant in the larger picture. My belief and hope is that eventually, all Indians, cannot think in any other way than how our culture evolves, and today’s culture is about finding your feet as an Indian within a global format. And that is what good architecture emerging out of India is and should be.

  What is the picture of Indian Architecture in the present and how does Morphogenesis see it evolving in the future?

The picture of Indian Architecture in the present is a little bit confused, little bit how architecture is positioned on the edge of a country seeing a paradigm change, an economic change and moving from a socialist to a capitalist change. The last couple of decades have shown growth yet some confusion, mixed signals, and that is where I see Indian Architecture. Pleasantly however, increasingly in the last few years, I am seeing a reconnection with environmental sustainability which has always been a backbone of our heritage.  I am seeing a reconnection with national pride; of Indians knowing exactly where they are and seeing themselves as, though I hate to use the phrase- an emergent power center. Therefore they are developing a language of their own and demanding a language of their own in Architecture as well, a language which will define the global face of Indian Architecture in the future, I hope.  In the present scenario has green or sustainable architecture have a local impact in terms of solutions or a generic global one. Beyond marketing is green architecture a creative solution or a material science project and how does Morphogenesis address it.

This question is something that I find very hard to answer in specifics because sustainability and green architecture is something that Morphogenesis’ thought process is steeped in. So, to answer whether the present scenario is affecting locally or globally, it is very difficult for me to disassociate and bracket it into chapters. It is, in a way, almost our reason for existence of where we are. So I don’t know segment seizes at marketing but I see it as the only way forward. I see it as a creative solution; I see it as a material science; I see it as an architectural endeavor; I see it as the only way to move forward whether Indian or Global.

  A building material and/or an architectural element that you would always want to work with and why?

This question is again hard to answer because this is entirely context specific, project specific, economics specific and cultural specific. So there isn’t any one building material that I would want to work with devoid of all these other concerns. But, what I do enjoy the material inquiry each time a new context is presented to me. So to see what is locally available, what is the craft, what is the potential of the material, what is its technological advancement, what is its product design potential, etc. And it varies. It could be local stone, local soil, sand, could be locally produced crafts, high technology, high specification glass, could be traditional metals such as copper, nickel or advanced new age materials. So, it’s more to play with the materials rather than to say ‘that material is my favorite’.   Design education has become one of the major areas of concentration. Over the years how would you describe your contribution to architectural education in India? Describe the process, ideology or direction chosen or imparted in the education process.

Design education is a very interesting field and I think that every single practicing designer or architect is actually involved it in, willingly or unwillingly, because it is an education that has a dual approach. One is direct contact teaching, which is the responsibility of the universities; the other is that this is a profession that is entirely taught through a visual medium. The lives of architects and designers are constantly spent towards creating projects which become the source of inquiry or inspiration or case study. Every time they create a building, they are involved in education because it is somebody’s education and somebody’s inspiration and somebody’s thought provoking situation, which is being created to inspire discourse.

  Design is viewed as a process that is a resultant of different stimuli, ranging from climatic conditions, financial and market forces, globalization, local conditions, technology etc. But what is that one or a specific stimulus that creates brand morphogenesis.

I don’t think Architecture can work with one stimulus. Architecture cannot be possibly responding to one stimulus because Architecture itself is about getting contextual data that needs to go through a creative design filter to come up with an object. And design filters are almost never that of one kind. So this question is something that I could not possibly answer because there isn’t one filter.Signature/Autograph.
Sonali Rastogi -

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