Architects Take | May 2012
Manit Rastogi of Morphogenesis reveals a lot about his firm and his work as he gets chatting with Sumisha Arora, Associate Editor, CW Interiors, about the hospitality industry and more.
Seated in the busy lobby of the Le Meridien, Delhi, our talk naturally began with the design of the hotel we were ensconced in and the hotel industry in general. From there, the conversation touched upon the design of the Taj hotels, Morphogenesis’ projects, philosophies, highs and lows. Here’s sharing excerpts from the conversation that reveal a bit about the industry, a bit about the company and lot about the dynamic, focused, high spirited team builder and creative master head – Manit Rastogi.
Could you give us an overview of the design scenario of the hospitality industry in India, and your contribution to it?
Most hotels in India are designed by international architects and designers. Most international group hotels are designed on manuals, and they don’t seem to have any relevance to the place they are located in. International hotel brands that came to India in the last few years have completely overlooked the fact that a hotel must have a link to Indian culture and hospitality traditions. At least, that’s how it has been for the last 15 years. Now, of course, we are seeing a gradual turnaround in the sector.
Before, if you wanted to experience the hospitality of the country in the true sense, you had very few options, like the hotels of the Lalit, ITC, Oberoi or the Taj group. These hotels have their own character that reflects in the design, whether it is in Hyderabad, Jaipur, Mumbai or Delhi.
At Morphogenesis, we have taken a conscious decision to respond to the culture and the environment.
What is the most exciting part of designing hotels?
The most exciting part about the hospitality industry is the opportunity to conceive a variety of experiences and the ability to create an architecure of place. We are doing projects in Kerala, Dehradun, Bengaluru, Delhi and Kathmandu, with different themes, of different sizes and varied needs.
Tell us more about your hospitality projects.
Currently, we are working on a varied assortment of projects. We are designing a hotel resort in Dehradun for The Lalit, spread over 20 acre. Here, we have renewed the local ecology and a seasonal stream that runs through the land, so that it now has water through the year; the hotel has been created around it. We are keeping the natural topography and the climatic conditions of the valley in mind while designing. We expect to complete it by 2014.
What are the criteria on the basis of which you decide what projects to do?
Our first criterion is that we want to work in all the five climatic zones of India – hot, humid, composite, temperate and cold. The second is typology. We want to cut across typologies and do institutional works, hospitality, cultural and corporate.
When you do a very simple project you only focus on the design and craft material. But, when you do a large project, the focus is on infrastructure – we look at the bigger picture. Doing both large and small projects ensures that we look into the details of even larger projects and conversely, look at small projects from the larger perspective. So, our third criterion is scale. Fourth, of course, is the cost. We want to do low cost projects as well as high-end luxurious projects.
How do you approach the design of a hotel – or any space, for that matter?
By considering the end user. When we do hospitality, we dwell in the mind of the visitor, understand the experience as he enters the boundary of the hotel...imagine how he gets in, how he parks, how he checks in, how he dines, what his recreation is. Every experience is noted down and designed in a project.
With offices, the requirements change. Many offices today are poorly lit, have pathetic parking, undersized cubicles...and that is where one spends maximum time. Why can’t the experience of a hotel be extended to an office? Doesn’t that person need a good parking space and lighting that enables him to work with ease? We fuse our experiences of different types of projects and create projects in different categories.
But, there are constraints – space constraints, client requirements, etc?
Space is always a constraint in an urban environment. The job of an architect is to create fabulous spaces, which are comfortable to work in, in spite of the constraints. Our project, The Delhi Art Gallery showcases how we created space for a library, an area for public dissemination of art works, storage, display and offices all within an area of 900 sq ft!
Coming back to hospitality, tell us something about your upcoming projects?
In Kathmandu, we have completed phase I of a project called Soaltee Hotel – it is a legendary hotel that we are modernising, and we are trying to create public spaces and restaurants that make the guest feel that he is in Kathmandu. For this, we have thoroughly explored the local crafts.
We are on the verge of completing two projects in NCR, which are like urban resorts. For example, in the one at Kapashera, which is next to the airport, we are trying to recreate a home-like atmosphere. We have spread the hotel horizontally – throughout, it only has a ground floor. The covered area of each room has an equivalent to the open area attached to it, lending a feeling of being in a chalet. The resort look will help this hotel stand out from the other hotels in this hospitality district.
Can you name any project as your landmark project?
In terms of the entire practice right now, the project that has been appreciated in India and internationally is our design for the Pearl Academy of Fashion in Jaipur. It has been awarded the Best Learning Building, World Architecture Festival Awards in Barcelona, the FutureArc Green Leadership Award in Singapore and Cityscape Architectural Review Special Award for Environmental Design award in Dubai. (Pls fill this in**)
So, your philosophy of design is designing in a local context?
Our philosophy of design is what we call the ‘architecture of somewhere’. Somewhere basically means that we start from the basic principles, from a simple analysis of the carrying capacity of the land, water, geology, climate, etc. Then, we design the programme of what we are going to do. The question we ask ourselves is: how are we going to redefine the typology?
Sustainability is at the core of our practice, not only with respect to energy but also with respect to material, social, cultural and financial performance.
What’s your opinion on the sustainability drive of the hospitality industry?
Some hotel chains have taken the pledge to make green hotels, which I think is a fantastic initiative. It’s in its nascent stages now, and the movement still has a long way to go.
For the hospitality industry, going green is essential because hotels are open 24/7 and 365 days a year. Small initiatives can result in huge savings, for the environment and for the company.
Is the hospitality industry a trendsetter that brings in design trends, which are consequently followed by residences and other kind of spaces?
It used to be true. There has always been an aspirational value attached to hospitality. But, that is more for interiors. Architecture trends emanate more from cultural and institutional projects than from the hospitality industry. This is precisely what we are addressing with our hospitality projects.
The conversation could have lasted forever, but all good things must come to an end. We wrapped up the session, with Rastogi’s last words being, “It’s a very exciting time to be an architect in India.” And, we agree. What could be more challenging than to create exciting architecture within the constraints that we live in!
Meet the architect: Manit Rastogi
Firm: Morphogenesis, founded in 1996.
Firm specialisation: Architecture, interior design, master planning, urban design, landscape design and environmental design consultancy.
Design philosophy: Design is a result of influential stimuli like climatic conditions, financial and market forces, traditions and technologies, local communities and globalisation. This inclusive nature of design, will define the new emergent Indian architecture.
Philosophy towards life: We are architectural activists who believe that a new urban blueprint is the need of the hour.
Morphogenesis, N-85B Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017. Tel: 011-4182 8070. E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.morphogenesis.org
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