"Pradeep Sachdeva was much more than an architect": a tribute to Dilli Haat creator

Freddie Ribeiro recalls his learnings from Pradeep Sachdeva, the man whose greatest asset was understanding people, and who created architectural landmarks in the city of Delhi.

by Freddie Ribeiro Published on : Jun 01, 2020

“I have got another one for you, kiddo,” boomed Pradeep Sachdeva from down the street at Khirki Village, where we both had studios three doors apart. Another project, he meant as he proceeded to involve me in the stunning variety of work that he did. I was a couple of years out of the Landscape Programme at SPA (School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi) and landscape was Pradeep’s current fascination. Over the next year I learnt as much from him as I had in the Master’s programme. His thirst for knowledge was inspirational and manifested itself in the versatility of his practice. Pradeep was more than just an architect and went on to make a serious contribution in the fields of furniture design, public realm, urban design, resorts and hospitality, and of course some unique residential buildings. 

Pradeep Sachdeva (1957-2020) | Tribute to Pradeep Sachdeva | STIRworld
Pradeep Sachdeva (1957-2020) Image Credit: Courtesy of Madhu Shankar

Our paths had first crossed when I was still a student and part of a small group assigned to train at Pradeep’s furniture workshop, Windmill. It was a wonderland for a budding architect. All tools, facilities and training was generously imparted as we learnt to create with our own hands. With time, PSDA (Pradeep Sachdeva Design Associates), the consultancy and Windmill grew out of Khirki Village and moved to Aya Nagar where Pradeep’s office became a bit of an institution by itself – an informal, inclusive space for learning, experimenting and pushing boundaries. It functioned as a laboratory for design and a safe umbrella for a wide variety of designers to collaborate and learn from each other. For a young professional, hanging around Pradeep meant learning something new every day. His greatest asset was his understanding of people. He was slow to judge and quick to spot ability. Hierarchy and authority meant little to Pradeep. It was fascinating to watch him deal with difficult clients, high-handed government officials and stubborn contractors. Pradeep had the ability to carry everyone along on the enthralling journey to realise his vision and emerge from each difficult meeting with a joke and a laugh. The childlike enthusiasm was infectious and the generosity all-pervading.

The Garden of Five Senses, Delhi | Tribute to Pradeep Sachdeva | STIRworld
The Garden of Five Senses, Delhi Image Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At a time when landscape architects and urban designers were pontificating endlessly on the theories of placemaking, Pradeep demonstrated what was possible by lobbying government departments and creating Dilli Haat and Garden of Five Senses. They remain till today Delhi’s most iconic and ground breaking urban landscape offerings. In more recent times, Pradeep’s other challenging interventions like the redevelopment of Chandni Chowk and the Jama Masjid area have shown us all that can be achieved via genuine engagement and dialogue with stakeholders. Like most visionaries, Pradeep was a pioneer and that is his true legacy.

PSDA principal architect Pradeep Sachdeva giving a walk to the tourists at Delhi Walk Festival in November 2017 Image Credit: Courtesy of psdastudio

Terms like mentor, guide and teacher seem to limit Pradeep’s contribution. He was all of that and more. His sudden passing has created a staggering void for many of us but the memory of his enabling and empowering style of functioning will ensure that PSDA continues to act as a beacon for those who dare to dream.

Pradeep Sachdeva with Simon Velez during the latter’s visit to Delhi in February 2018 Image Credit: Courtesy of pradeepsachdeva

Farewell my friend. The torch you lit 30 years ago still shines bright. That kiddo and many like me proudly tread the path you walked on first.

Note: Pradeep Sachdeva, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Roorkee, early in his career drew inspirations from the likes of Geoffrey Bawa and Laurie Baker. He started his firm, PSDA in 1990 as a small design studio, and today it boasts of over 25 architects and designers working on a wide range of projects. Apart from being a practitioner for public spaces, he worked on hospitality projects for Taj Hotels, ITC Hotels, and redevelopment of Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid areas in Delhi and Assi Ghat in Benares, Uttar Pradesh. Pradeep passed away on May 31, 2020. He is survived by his wife and two children.

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About Author

Freddie Ribeiro

Freddie Ribeiro

An architect since 1995, he abandoned all architectural ambitions in 2005 in the pursuit of joy as a landscape architect. In 2010, he helped establish the Landscape Design Studio at BDP, New Delhi. Through this column, he hopes to provoke outrage and empathy at the lack of public discourse, design intent and dissemination of knowledge in this neglected but critical sphere of our lives.

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