With a new monograph to celebrate 20 years of their practice, Manit and Sonali Rastogi of leading architectural firm Morphogenesis look forward

The Pearl Academy building in Jaipur is protected from the elements by an outer skin, an intricate series of jaalis or perforated lattice ubiquitous in traditional Indo-Islamic architecture. The density of the jaali facade comes from a technique of shadow analysis and the orientation of the building. A distance of 4ft between the jaali and the peripheral building wall allows for a buffer space, which checks the direct heat and produces a lovely dappled effect. The roof is insulated with inverted earthen pots, a practice common in traditional architecture. ....

A rendering of the under-construction Infosys campus in Nagpur.
A rendering of the under-construction Infosys campus in Nagpur. © Morphogenesis

Twenty years is not a terribly long time in the life of an architectural firm. Morphogenesis, however, exhibits an agility and applied common sense in the way it negotiates contradictions: how to be ecologically light but provide modern-day conveniences, how to build in a global context yet draw from traditional construction practices. The projects that the couple take on are illustrative of this duality. They have been pushing for the Delhi Nullah project for nine years and researching ways to restore the Capital’s traditional sewage network. They took on Artisan House, a private residence in New Delhi built in 2015, as a project because it gave them an opportunity to learn and draw from the skills of artisans.“Everything in the house is handcrafted: inlay, stonework, brick patterns, furniture, even rainwater pipes. That’s how construction was traditionally done till modernity stripped the artisan of his capacity and reduced craft to a souvenir,” says Manit. 

In one of their works-in-progress, the Infosys campus coming up in Nagpur, they have applied a “net zero on energy, water and waste to landfill” philosophy. “It’s a reverse calculation. If you build on a certain piece of land, what’s the carrying capacity of that land: How much rain does that land get and how much of it can be harvested? Then we calculate how many people can be supported on that land with that much resource and how much we need to build accordingly,” says Manit. Can it be done? “Yes, we think so. We’re currently working on seven projects that are based on this formula.” 

Such a reverse calculation and a shift forward in the way we consider resources, how we build and how we live—Morphogenesis is pivoted between making the most of the past for the sake of the future.