A River in Need
With increasing densification of Indian towns and cities, there is greater need for space for urban interaction, community building and public engagement. Morphogenesis aims to achieve this through sustainable development of the riverside urban frontage of the Ganga. Morphogenesis is one of India’s most innovative architecture and design studios and a world-leader in net zero energy and sustainable design. The firm achieves a significant milestone this year, of having completed two decades of an approach that looks at the idea of sustainability through the lens of passive design, resource optimisation, and contextual identity. A recent project by Morphogenesis,’ A River in Need’ aims to recognise in an environmentally contextual and culturally sustainable way, the ultimate goal to close the circle of life around the Ganga, and to become one with the river. The National Mission of Clean Ganga (NMCG), under the Ministry of Water Resources, was formed with an objective to ensure effective abatement of pollution and restoration of the river. Morphogenesis is enlisted to provide architectural and engineering consultancy services for the rehabilitation of existing ghats and development of new ghats and crematoriums along the Ganga, from Allahabad to Varanasi; it is seen as an urban intervention to ‘sustainably design the interface between human habitation and water’. Looking at rejuvenating the usage of the river, a prime design concern involves dealing with the erosion of the river bank, which is addressed by researching and redesigning traditional vernacular learning of the way the water edge was treated, such as the ghats lent themselves to stabilising the river edge along with providing the interface for human and water engagement. The design incorporates informal, temporary retail to activate the ghats constantly and prevent further pollution. Sectionally, the ghats are organised according to flood levels, with bathing platforms at the lowest followed by the ritual space, the gathering space, and public amenities at the safe zone. Thus, different levels have been created for different activities. These ghats, when redeveloped, will not only serve their traditional ritualistic purposes but also function as urban spaces for discourse and dissemination of knowledge. In that vein, these spaces are designed to be Wi-Fi enabled, and in keeping with sustainability metrics, they will almost entirely run off solar power.