Cooling Partitions for Chai Vendors

This project was part of my exchange at Pratt Institute. I attended a class called ‘Design for India’ where we were asked how could we design for a place that we have never been, around the topic of relieving heat stress.


I was interested in the traditions and practices of chai wallahs, the chai vendors that are well known in India. Chai as a drink is culturally linked and deeply valued within the community as a source of socialisation, communication and relaxation. I thought that intervening around this space and attempting to add a layer of comfort for the customers within the context of their practice of squatting while drinking, would be worth exploring.

I also looked at un-conventional methods of learning more about India and their behavioural patterns through watching Bollywood films and conducting observational studies at little India in Jackson Heights, New York.

Above are pictures of a prototype for the proposal of the partition design.


The material used would be khus which has cooling properties when wet. I thought that using locally produced material, it would also provide the potential for additional income for khus weavers since the increase in air conditioning products which overtook their khus cooling shade market. I designed a relatively low partition where customers would be able to squat in a resting position whilst enjoying their chai as well as having the ability to communicate with the chai wallah when standing up.


I developed a manual as a short explanation as to how the partitions function and what would be needed to maintain the installation, keeping in mind its need to be sustainable and low maintenance.

This work was part of Pratt Institute’s Green Week Exhibition 2020. Post can be found here.