An architect, a town planner, an art collector and a lover of Urdu poetry, Delhi-based Kuldip Singh engaged at multiple levels with the city and its public realm. He is known for his sculptural modern buildings in the Capital, including New Delhi Metro Corporation (NDMC), National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) and Saket District Centre, which hosts the much-frequented Select Citywalk mall. As a consultant to the Metro Rail Corporation, both Delhi and Bengaluru, he designed many maintenance and stabling depots. He passed away on Tuesday due to COVID. He was 86.
His home in Jangpura contained another world. Solid wooden carved Chettinad doors and pillars from dismantled houses down South layered his living room. His walls dressed with Tanjavur and south Indian paintings was a stark contrast to the ephemeral landscape of the markets just outside.
Singh, who completed his bachelors from the School of Planning and Architecture in 1957, had a long association with the South, because of his projects in Chennai and Kochi. What started as a hobby turned Singh into a collector, with over 350 paintings across themes and formats, arguably the largest collection in the country. The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi hosted 200 paintings in December 2017. Earlier that year, with photographer-curator Ram Rahman, KNMA organised an architecture exhibition, “Delhi: Building the Modern”, which included works by Singh, along with other modernists such as Habib Rahman, Achyut Kanvinde, Raj Rewal and Charles Correa.
“It was the first time that the Delhi audience was actually seeing photographs and drawings of some of these buildings. Kuldip Singh loaned us the NCDC and NDMC models. When he began work with Rewal in Delhi in 1963, they used exposed concrete primarily. Kuldip adopted a sculptural style, which shows in his buildings, including the Cochin Housing project,” says Rahman.
Senior landscape architect Ram Sharma, who graduated with Singh from SPA, commends his clarity of thought and rationale as an architect and town planner. “In 1986, I was a member of Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC). We had to prepare a conceptual plan for Delhi. Kuldip was one of the consultants. His contribution was phenomenal in the way he drew out the structural, zoning and circulation plans for the city. While I find the Saket District Centre one of the most organised built forms, in its articulation of retail, recreation and parking, Delhi should thank him for his contribution to the Qutub Metro station. DMRC had initially planned to go overhead in Qutub, he worked toward taking it underground,” says Sharma.
His classmate, through school and college, and colleague, Rewal was a close friend. “We would discuss books we had read and he was known to quote Ghalib and other Urdu poets often. Very pragmatic and futuristic in his ideas, he had a calming effect on people. He is a brother I will miss dearly,” says Rewal.
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