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. She has been 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. Morphogenesis for the third time running among the Top 100 Architectural Design Firms worldwide by Building Design Magazine, UK in WA100, 2014.
Why did you choose to become an architect? Tell us about your journey as a designer?
Essentially, I come from a family of architects so being exposed to it from an early age drew me to it. It awakened the creative and artistic sensibility within me. I think it is a profession that arouses curiosity very easily and growing up as a child in that environment where curiosity plays a very major role, it was a natural choice for me. The profession of an architect is always a journey. It’s something which is not a hobby or where you switch off when you go home. It is an all-encompassing profession and a way of life. So the journey continues as there is a continuing, growing experience of life. Much like with age, experience accumulates architectural wisdom in that journey.
As an architect what challenges do you face while designing a new project?
I think every project brings along with its own share of challenges. A project is actually a response to some expected parameters, some unexpected parameters, others which are evolved parameters. So, each project brings along with it certain challenges, certain discoveries. Of course, every time an architect works in a new location, in a different climatic condition or with a different typology, or sometime technically different, it brings along a new challenge. I cannot answer what is the biggest challenge, but I can say that everyday must have a challenge, and if it doesn’t then we find it.
How important is the integration of tradition (vernacular architecture) and technology for a sustainable design?
This process of design is remarkable, and comparable to evolution in nature. Today, we do not have the time and resources to wait for hundreds or thousands of years for projects to evolve by means of natural forces. Exposure to the new emergent sciences of complexity has revealed an almost new underlying logic to nature. Simultaneously, sustainability has become one of the primary agendas at this most acute time of crisis. It slowly became evident that an alternative architecture was required, one that would examine the process of design from first principles, and in doing so turn to nature for its analogies, not from any one naturalistic prototype but from the concept of biodiversity – the final form not being the result of a stylistic application, but the end product of a process that mirrors that of natural selection.
What change do you see in designing industry?
Today, developments across India are being designed with a layer of sustainability or ‘green’
superimposed. There needs to be a conscious attempt to step away from this overlay system of green points and instead incorporate passive approaches to design, right from conceptual and planning stages. Unlike other nations, local resources, materials and methods of construction are still easily available to us. It is imperative that we, as Indian Architects, take a few steps back into the past, to be able to find solutions for creating a sustainable future. The most effective approach is to build in a manner that responds to the climatic needs of the region while remaining economically viable.
Things that inspire you and also stimulate your designing skills?
My inspiration has always been nature. And here, I mean the processes that exist in nature, rather
than the built form. All that I wanted to create in Architecture already existed in the processes of
Nature – adaptability, sustainability, diversity, interactivity, connectivity etc. – from the design of ant hills, morphology of trees to 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.
What is your advice to young Architects?
Well my advice to the young architects is that it’s a phenomenal profession; it’s a way of life. It’s a journey of discovery along with its fair share of disappointments and pain. So only step in to it if you want to passionately embrace it and equally passionately want to be engulfed by it. Otherwise it’s not one of the easiest choices to make.