Re-imagining tea carts in Calicut, India
Calicut, India
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Location:
Calicut, India
Category:
urban planning
Phase:
in use
Updated:
13 August 2021
Kerala's tea stalls have been an integral part of public life, bringing people from across  socioeconomic strata to offer vibrant spaces for refreshment, social interaction, and political activism. In recent years, the carts have been perceived to be unclean and inferior to trendy cafes. With this pilot project, we aim to revitalize this age-old social institution by reimagining tea carts as efficient, hygienic, and functional spaces.
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Introduction
Tea carts in Kerala have been an integral part of society, shaping culture and politics. These carts that are fondly called ‘Chaayakadas’, have been an  age-old tradition and were first established in the 19th century. Over time these tea carts have become an important part of Kerala’s modern public sphere and serves as a social hub that encourages people to congregate daily and have engaging conversations with fellow community members. In Calicut,, our hometown these tea carts are typically located on spare inches of pavement spaces on busy roads and can be found in nooks and crannies around the city.

However in recent times, due to the lack of space and infrastructure and the overpowering existence of indoor cafes, an entity such as a tea cart, that used to attract a wide range of people in the past, seem to be visited less frequently and is not being put to the fullest and best of use. The spaces in and around these stall are not protected from the pollution and climate changes of urban landscapes and are dilapidated and lack basic sanitation. The primary goal of our study is reviving something as old and customary as a tea-cart to create an efficiently functioning space which is hygienic and can eventually act as a catalyst to develop more such dynamic spaces in the city. We completed our pilot project by redesigning Narayanettans tea cart who has been a vendor in our community for over 25 years. Our pilot project was compelter with sponsorship provided by Peekay steels as part of their CSR initiative. We aim to replicate the elements of this model to create more such efficient tea carts in other parts of the city.

In order to understand and establish our case, we chose to study the context area around Karaparamba, in Calicut. This region entails active spaces in the city with mixed uses, consisting of a considerable amount of functioning teas carts. In a radius of 800m proximity, four tea carts were identified and analysed to understand their existing characteristics.

A detailed analysis of the 4 cases were carried out in order to identify the potential site for proposal. Factors defining the existing condition of the tea carts and its surroundings were compared with each other. Even though all four tea carts exhibited similar characteristics, they were different in terms of the physical space and functionality. All the carts are oriented alongside the road edges, activating the space. An interesting observation is that the boundary or buffer spaces around the carts are relatively expansive for case 1 and 4, which can accommodate more people. However, for case 2 and 3, there is only a slight linear extension adjacent to the carts. There is no designated parking in the available space, which sometimes causes constraints in the traffic flow. Case 3 has the oldest cart structure, which is as old as 25 years. All the other tea carts age less than 10 years. While the items sold in the tea carts vary from tea, snacks and groceries, the manner in which they are stored are different. Case 2 and 4 seem to have sufficient storage for displaying their items. Case 1 and 3, could manage their space efficiently, provided they had more storage space.

Further, conditional analyses of the structures were carried out. For case 1 and 2, the roofs seemed to be intact and in good condition, whereas, Case 3 and 4 had their roofs in very dilapidated condition. None of the structures were mobile, except for Case 1.

As for the surrounding space of the carts, all four cases seem to have adequate shade due to the existing trees. However, the areas don’t seem highly safe as there are insufficient streetlights, causing illegal activities to take place during the night hours. In case 2 and 3, streetlights were implemented recently, making the streets well lit. Even though the carts are located in clean areas and there are dustbins placed at the carts, people litter, or even pile up garbage, creating an unhygienic environment. There is no segregation of waste and it gets collected infrequently. Case 2 has adequate seating, which can cater to an average footfall and case 1 has a bench, which is really old and staggered, making it inefficient. However, Case 3 and 4 do not have any seating facilities for the customers. Another observation made was that none of the tea carts have a signboard, which if provided, would create an identity to the place.

Through the critical analysis of all four cases, Case 3, Narayanettan’s tea cart seemed to be in the most adverse condition, requiring immediate action, thus making it the potential site where the pilot project was implemented.
Comparison of the structural conditions of all cases

image: Naeera,Anna | © all rights reserved
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Impact
The major concepts of the redesigned cart in the pilot project includes, reducing the adjacency to road and shifting the work space to the inside of the cart for the owner’s safety, closed storage system for better hygiene and safety, movable and foldable structure for flexibility of space usage, opening on all four sides for sufficient ventilation, roof projection for protection from heat and rain and incorporating solar panels for lighting.

Though the primary objective of the project is to re-design tea carts, we envision the surrounding spaces to evolve as a core public spaces which is vibrant, hygienic, safe, and coherent. Through the study conducted, the most prominent issues to be addressed around the carts were safety, waste disposal and parking. Re-imagining the space around the cart by addressing these issues would enhance the realm and add economic and social value to the tea cart and its vicinity. We envision to tap the potential of creating opportunities by rationally designing and activating underutilized public spaces for a better lifestyle. To begin with, in our pilot project, we painted a wall graffiti adjacent to Narayanettan's cart, which conveys the message to keep your surroundings clean.
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Core team
We, Naeera Ali and Anna Mariya Lukose, initiated the project with a vision to implement a socially relevant project in the city. Naeera is an Architect at Atelier Sérgio Rebelo, Porto. She completed her B.Arch. from Manipal University, India, and M.Des. from RISD, US. She has worked in New York and India for three years specializing in adaptive reuse, residential and health care projects. Anna is an Urban Planner, currently doing her Masters in Urban Design at UBC, Vancouver. She completed her B.Plan. from CEPT University, India, and has worked for three years as an urban practitioner in several public projects such as heritage tourism and sustainable neighbourhood design.

The pilot project was approached with a participatory method by having multiple consultations with various Government agencies, stakeholders and other experts in the field, to obtain legal permission and to encourage community participation to incorporate strategies from the public opinion, that could benefit the users.

As a first, we took permission from the owners of our targeted stall Mr. Narayanan, Mrs. Narayani, and Mr. Muthu and conducted an interview to understand the depth of specific issues faced by them and take their suggestions into the redesign of the stall.  

We then established our case and developed a preliminary report to pitch our idea to various Government authorities who had stake in bringing the project to life. We were actively supported by Dr Beena Philip, Mayor of Calicut, Dr R.S Gopakumar, Health officer, N Shivaprasad councelor of Karaparamba ward, and Mr. Sulaiman, Secratary of Town vending committee, Calicut. After presenting our concept and reviewing it by them multiple times, we could successfully implement the project on ground with the help of the vendors, S.M Engineering works Calicut, Bava sons, and Peekay steels, who sponsored our pilot project. We also had active participation from the youth of the residence community around, to paint the wall graffiti.
Core team

image: Naeera, Anna | © all rights reserved
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Image gallery
Tea cart before redesign and Narayanetan

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Solar panel led light

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Tea stall at night

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Wall art

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Tea stall as a social hub

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Public exhibition

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people using the stacking stools

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Tea stall view

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Work space

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Adjustable wheels

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Stackable stools

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User space

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Closed

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Parking space

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3d rendering for presentation

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3d rendering for presentation

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Map showing all the 4 cases

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Future vision

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Carts at the beach (for the pitch)

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Typical cart typology at the beach

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Technical drawings
List of items

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List of items2

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Existing tea cart elevation

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Existing site section

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User movement analysis

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Concept

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Exploded axonometric

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Structure mechanism of closed cart

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Space configuration in the existing stall

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Customizable elements of prototype model

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Proposed plan

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Proposed elevation

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Proposed elevation

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BOQ

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Help bring our project to life!

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Where are we now
The Calicut corporation intends to redesign all the carts along the beach in the city and showed interest in adapting our design for the same. The project will be fully funded by the corporation. However, they require us to modify the prototype model to accomodate more storage space and use materials that are durable and suits the coastal location. We have carried forward a study for the exisitng carts at the beach and analysed the strategies to be incorporated in the prototype model. However, since its a large scale project, we hope that interested designers can join us and support us with their creative design suggestions to complete the project.
An indication of our team’s capacity:
50% expertise already found
100% builders already found
Skills: Planning & Management, Design, Financial advice
We would like interested designers who have experience working in similar urban interventions, to join us, so that we can brainstorm ideas and create the most efficient and best output possible. We also hope to sustain this team for more such relevant urban projects in the future. 
Help bring our project to life!
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