Bangalore-based designer Mohan Rao is working on a project for restoration of the water reservoirs around the historical town of Hampi in India. His small and interdisciplinary firm Integrated Design provides alternative methods for sustainable hydrology – a vital part of the global sustainability movement.
Since big hydrological dams cause a lot of ecological and social problems Rao prefers small-scale solutions and in the Hampi case he found he could build on historical experiences. When he took part of the archaeological surveys of Hampi he became very interested in how the old empire of the Vijayanagars (1336-1646 AD) solved the water supply problem since the landscape is very dry. Soon they worked hard to understand an old and very advanced system consisting of percolation pits, detention ponds, wells and pipes. Then they integrated this awareness into their design since an advantage of the ancient system was that it didn’t consume any energy.
It is not strange that Rao found a solution by combining ancient and new methods at the intersection of archaeology and modern engineering. It is natural for him to cross the lines between fields. He became disillusioned by conventional design since there are usually strict barriers between architecture, landscape, engineering and site management. According to Rao it is better to combine all those perspectives when solving problems - that is why he started Integrated Design in the first place.
Read an interview with Mohan Rao for more details on the Hampi project.