Pradeep Sachdeva was a multifaceted designer whose work across architecture, landscape and urban design made a big impact on India. Most people knew him as the architect of Dilli Haat, but as someone who knew him personally and professionally, I can say that he was one of the most important voices in South Asian design.
Pradeep gave me my first internship in architecture school, and then my first job upon graduating. He was someone who held my hand through many ups and downs, and like any good mentor, he knew me better than I cared to admit. I have him to thank for the trajectory of my career, and today, upon his death, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of loss.
Pradeep’s practice at Pradeep Sachdeva Design Associates has given India a rich body of work in both the public and private realms. In Delhi, no one can claim to not have been touched by his work. From the Garden of Five Senses and Dilli Haat, to the streetscapes for 2010s Commonwealth Games and the upcoming Chandni Chowk redevelopment, Pradeep never failed to offer his audience a sanctuary in the din of city life.
His office was a sanctuary too, both architecturally and metaphorically. Pradeep was a people-person, and the care he put into his office spoke to his humility. There was no ego in his relationships with employees and clients. The practice of architecture often propagates a myth of subservience to a lording star-architect whose vision is held paramount.
Pradeep, on the other hand, was truly collaborative. He was always on the lookout for different artists and it was this invitation to art that made his work stand out. Pradeep’s architecture should be counted in the same ranks as Geoffrey Bawa’s in Sri Lanka or Laurie Baker’s in Kerala. Of course, his work was set in a very different urban and socio-economic context, but it spoke to the humanity of its audience.
Any talk of Pradeep’s legacy would be incomplete without talking about beauty. While he was deeply aware of the world and its needs, his aesthetic was rooted in Indianness. Pradeep knew how to create a moment, marrying local material and climatic performance with a deep appreciation of craft. My favourite space designed by him is his own office in Ayanagar, Delhi. A lush complex of small buildings connected by wooden bridges, it was a breeding ground of architectural details, planting experiments and design philosophies that showed up across his work.
His office was an oasis in the rush of city life. And Pradeep, like his office, was my oasis. I ran to him for design critique, career advice and whenever the water felt too hot in architecture school. He always greeted me with his disarming smile and calm energy. I will miss knowing he’s just a phone call away.
Rest in peace, boss!
The author is a landscape architect based in California. He attended the School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi, and the University of California, Berkeley