“Dilli Haat is so iconic that every city in India wants its own Dilli Haat. That’s the iconic legacy he leaves behind,” said urban planner A G K Menon about architect Pradeep Sachdeva, who passed away early Sunday morning. The 63-year-old suffered a heart attack. He is survived by his wife and two children. Apart from Dilli Haat, Sachdeva is credited with The Garden of Five Senses and his streetscape work during the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Menon, who knew Sachdeva for several decades, told The Indian Express, “His vocabulary was different, he worked on ‘Indian modernism’. He used to say that roads are designed for those who drive cars but that’s just 13% people in India. He believed in designing roads for everyone, including pedestrians.”
On Sunday morning, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted about Sachdeva’s death, “… The spaces he created have become architectural landmarks for our city brought alive by his imaginative design.”
Sachdeva’s work became a template for many public projects in the country. He believed that streets should be vibrant spaces for all, and it was because of this design philosophy that he was roped in to pedestrianise Chandni Chowk. In an interview to The Indian Express last year, Sachdeva said, “What do the Mall road in Shimla, MG Road in Gangtok or the area near Golden Temple in Amritsar have in common? They are car-free zones. I think this is the most important aspect of the Chandni Chowk redevelopment.”
Menon also shared an interesting personal anecdote, “We mostly agreed on everything but over the Chandni Chowk project, we disagreed. In fact, I was fighting a case against him in the court about it too. Last year, while the case was on, I sold the farmhouse next to his, and had harvested wheat. I kept that at his farmhouse. That was Pradeep — you could quarrel with him, fight a case against him but it never impacted the friendship.”
An IIT-Roorkee alumni, Sachdeva travelled to Pune to work with architect Christopher Benninger in 1980. His early inspirations in the works of self-taught architects Laurie Baker and Geoffrey Bawa would guide him to pursue many different fields of design. Besides numerous hospitality projects across the country, Sachdeva taught himself landscape and urban design. One who saw the value in a 300-year-old wooden Kerala house and transported it plank by plank, all the way to the Capital to build his home on the outskirts of Gurgaon could not have done it if there was no appreciation for its craft, science, and planning.
Photographer Ram Rahman recalled Sachdeva’s furniture studio in the ’80s, called Windmill, and said, “He used to make beautiful furniture and Windmill was a big deal then. I was doing architectural photography at the time… He understood craft, and was an affable person.”
Architect Sujata Hingorani said that while Dilli Haat and The Garden of Five Senses are his gated public projects, “many of his street design guidelines are what we turn to when we work with PWD”. She said, “He brought such beauty to technical elements like junction design and street space.”
“His favourite line was to ‘keep it simple’. He taught us that there were no boundaries, while he was constantly pushing his own,” said architect Suparna Bhalla.
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