Ar. Sonali Rastogi, Founder Partner, Morphogenesis
"I believe that Architecture and design is not only a profession- but also a way of life. The commitment required is paramount as there is a tremendous responsibility to one-self, the environment and society at large. I believe the opportunity is immense, the opportunity to define a new emergent Indian architecture – An Architecture of almost somewhere, for a people, for a people of almost somewhere."
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 Founder Partner of Morphogenesis, one of India's leading award-winning Architecture and Urban Design practices whose sole approach has been to address from first principles, a design response based on local climatic, socio-cultural, economic and financial conditions, that addresses the needs of an evolving and emergent economy such as India's.
Being from a family of architects, Ar. Sonali grew up among architects and had always a serious interest in reading, model making and observing buildings while travelling, since her childhood. Essentially, those were the starting point of why she chose to be an architect."
Since the beginning of her career, issues related to the environment and sustainability have been at the core of Sonali's design attitude and her experience and expertise in Architecture and Design has been recognized by way of numerous awards and accolades. While talking about the inspiration for her designs, she says, "Our inspiration and mentor has always been nature. And here, I mean the processes that exist in nature, rather than the built form. All that we wanted to create in Architecture already exists in the processes of Nature – adaptability, sustainability, diversity, interactivity, connectivity etc. – from the design of ant hills, morphology of trees for the formation of mountains. This led to the genesis of our architecture where we examine the process of design from first principles, and in doing so, turn to nature for its analogies from the concept of biodiversity. The final form is hence, not the result of a stylistic application, but the end-product of a process that finds clues from that of natural selection."
The architectural design methodology, she says, is about creating a sustainable backbone, in terms of building physics and in terms of socio-cultural sensitivity for a design process to unfold. It incorporates resource availability, contextual identity and places the end user at the centre of it by understanding the livability of the project. There isn't really a method which can be so prescriptive as to address all of these issues.
On the growth of Morphogenesis from a firm of only 2 employees upon its establishment to over 100 today, she says, "Putting our heads down and working hard, day in and day out, is our Success Mantra. Morphogenesis has always been more about brain count than head count. So, when there were just two of us, it was still about design, debate and a design product. So, that philosophy has never changed, the firm has been fortunate to have many projects. Thus, the repertoire has grown and thus the numbers have been a resultant of that growth. The number is never a criterion, as far as Morphogenesis is concerned, it is the brain and the process which is the criterion. Hundred is an interesting number and a larger number to us represent the larger number of opportunities."
The one memory that always makes me look back and smile, she said, is when we won a World Architecture Festival award for Best Learning Building in 2009. The significance of it being the first Indian project to win a WAF Award is one thing, but our project Pearl Academy of Fashion marked a turning point in our own approach to design and truly made us consider sustainability in its widest sense from then on; not just of energy and water but of craft, of detail, of tectonic perfection.
Thereafter, we won many recognitions including Singapore Institute of Architects SIA-Getz Award in 2014 which is a hugely significant award for any Architect to be honoured with. Based on an entire body of work, reviewed by peers, it brings Emergent Asian architecture to the forefront of global discourse. To us, this recognition has converted our lifetime of commitment into a conviction, which we hope will go a long way towards our vision of 'Building Brand India'.