Morphogenesis / Co-Founding Partner
Sonali Rastogi commenced her architecture studies at the School of Planning and Architecture (New Delhi) and the Architectural Association (London) with a graduate diploma in Housing and Urbanism under Jorge Fiori and a second graduate diploma in Graduate Design (Design Research Lab) under Jeff Kipnis. She is the Co-Founding Partner at Morphogenesis, one of India’s leading Architecture and Urban Design practices, listed among the top 100 architectural firms globally.
Sonali has worked across a diverse canvas ranging from architecture to urban design, landscape, interior design, and art & sculpture. Her professional portfolio includes several significant institutions, residences, hotels, commercial buildings, residential complexes, and Smart Cities across India, Bhutan, South Africa, Nepal, Bangladesh, The UAE, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. She believes that each project must establish itself as a benchmark for innovative design by thinking systemically about sustainability to create a large-scale impact. This has resulted in the formulation of Morphogenesis’ copyrighted design philosophy S.O.U. L©, an acronym for Sustainable, Optimised, Unique, and Liveable. These parameters define the inquiry process that shapes the architecture of Morphogenesis, and this has conservatively resulted in:
Gross area of sustainable buildings completed: 50,000,000 sq.ft.
Freshwater saved: 22 billion litres
Energy saved: 4.1 million kW/hr
Reduction in CO2 emissions: 4.2 billion kg
Over 9 million sq.m. of built environment benefitting over 5,60,000 inhabitants
Since 2018, Sonali has added sustaining arts and crafts communities and mainstreaming them as her next 10 years’ agenda.
Sonali has had a significant influence on the emerging generation of Indian architects through her involvement in architectural education and as a role model for the profession. She is a leading speaker on Sustainable Architecture and has lectured at numerous reputed universities and conferences worldwide. Sonali is also a prolific design author and has co-authored Morphogenesis’ first monograph ‘Morphogenesis: The Indian Perspective, The Global Context,’ published by Images Australia under their Master Architect Series. Her works have been featured in over 850 national and international publications.
She has brought significant attention to gender issues. Today, Morphogenesis is an exemplar of the profession for equal opportunity and gender pay parity. A strong proponent of the ‘arts and crafts,’ Sonali is a founder of Manthan, a platform for creative individuals seeking to share, discuss, engage with, and evolve concepts and ideologies. She has been actively engaged in creating conversations around stories of untold monuments and sites of India through the ILF (India Lost & Found) initiative.
Sonali’s deep interest in research work and public policy has further extended her commitment to cultural and environmental sustainability. She has been a member of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (2014-2020), a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Architects, Royal Society of Arts, UK, and A Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Furthermore, she has also been the Gallently Dickson visiting scholar at the University of BATH.
Her vision of positioning Indian contemporary architecture onto a global platform has been recognised with the highest honours. She is the recipient of over 110 international and national awards, including India’s first World Architecture Festival award and 5 Indian Institute of Architects Awards. She and her partner Manit are the only Indian Laureates of the Singapore Institute of Architects Getz Award for their significant contribution to shaping Asia’s changing landscape.
Tell us about your definition of a good design?
Design and its outcome are a powerful tool to understand society. By looking at what society creates for people, we can gain valuable insights into its current state and future direction. It provides a glimpse into where society stands and where it’s likely headed.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you develop a passion for design?
I am an architect and one of the co-founding partners of Morphogenesis, an architectural, interior design, landscape, and urbanism firm that has thrived for nearly 28 years now.
I completed my B. Arch from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi in 1991 following which I went for post graduation to Architectural Association, School of Architecture in London.
I have always been curious about how people inhabit spaces, how dwellings are formed, and this has further generated an interest in art, design, architecture, and urbanism. Design has always been an integral part of my life, as I was raised in a household of architect parents and interior designers. It is what I grew up observing, what I developed a passion for, and where I still feel a sense of belonging. I have always had a serious interest in reading, model making as well as observing buildings when I travelled, so all of these things put together supported my interest. Essentially that is the starting point for howI developed a passion for design. Design is not just a profession to me; it is a way of life that I am deeply committed to.
What attributes do you think makes a design stand out from the rest in Awards such as the IDA?
For me a design stands out from others in a competition when it is addressing something which is a problem statement or a societal need or envisioning the direction society should take, how humans need to engage with the planet or has addressed emergent ideas. For me that’s what I look for when I go to a design competition. Needless to say, that the design flair, the architectural attitude is of course a given. However, it must also embody a concept and convey a meaningful message.
What advice would you give to future IDA entrants?
I have two pieces of advice for aspiring IDA entrants, each tailored to distinct experience
levels. The first advice is for those who have been practicing architecture for a while. It is
crucial that your submission reflects an intense sense of responsibility towards the idea you
are pursuing. Take my example of promoting S.O.U.L. i.e., Sustainability, Optimization,
Unique and Livable spaces. It is vital that my work embodies these principles because the
IDA awards serve the purpose of being exemplars and sources of inspiration. Therefore,
whatever idea you choose to pursue, ensure that it serves as an exemplary inspiration to
Now, for the younger practitioners of architecture, I encourage you to push yourselves to the limits and explore all the opportunities that a project offers. This approach is the way forward for a remarkable and fresh entrance. Embrace the chance to think beyond conventions, challenge norms, and bring forth new and innovative thoughts. By doing so, your work will captivate the judges and leave an impression on people from all corners of the world who come across it.
Regardless of your experience level, your IDA submission should demonstrate your dedication, passion, and capacity to make a significant impact in the field of architecture.
What is your own guiding design principle?
My own guiding design principle is one that I have evolved together with my co-founder and colleagues from Morphogenesis over the years. It is called S.O.U.L i.e., Sustainability, Optimization, Unique and Livability. In recent years, sustainability has expanded to encompass not only energy and environmental concerns but also social and cultural inclusivity.
Do you believe there is a design ethic?
There is an ethical way of living and for me design is a way of living. Therefore, I do not know when those boundaries converge, and they seem to be always converging. So, I think yes, there is a design ethic. It is as ethical as the life we choose to lead.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for a designer today?
When it comes to designers today, there is a valuable discussion to be had about the challenges they face and the opportunities that arise from them. A designer’s job in society is always to create products that elevate the human condition and those are the challenges. Without challenges there is almost no opportunity and when the challenges are addressed, it becomes an opportunity. It is this interplay between challenges and opportunities that drives designers to continually innovate and elevate the world around us.
If you were to offer a designer a piece of advice on how to succeed in the industry today, what would you tell them?
In order to thrive in the industry, it’s essential to immerse oneself in an information-rich environment that encompasses the world at large. Without that, the ability to recognize a challenge is lost and hence, the ability to create an opportunity is diminished.
How much influence does your own personal taste influence your decisions in judging a design award?
While I strive for impartiality in my judging decisions, it is difficult for any juror to completely avoid the influence of their prior knowledge and personal interests. For instance, sustainability resonates deeply with me, thus, I naturally seek out projects that address sustainability challenges and seize related opportunities. Likewise, I actively look for opportunities to engage marginalized communities in my work. Whilst I understand that every project around the world may not be able to achieve this goal, I cannot deny my excitement if I come across a project that successfully includes and empowers marginalized communities. And while I do not claim to speak on behalf of the entire design community, experienced designers worldwide, knowingly or unknowingly, are likely to be influenced by their own experiences when making design decisions.