Ah, the public telephone. Seemingly not too long ago, an essential part of the urban fabric. An absolute necessity for staying in touch while on the go. Any urban area of substance had plenty of phone booths within easy walking distance. Searching for a free phone booth was an essential part of urban existence.
Now, with the ubiquity of mobile phones, in many US cities it’s hard to find a phone booth anymore, or at least one that still functions. Birmingham is littered with obsolete booths, a testament to antiquated technology. Above is the phone booth directly outside our downtown office, which used to carry an illuminated “South Central Bell” flag sign up top, and a phone (and phone book!) below. Now the sign has been yanked out, along with the phone; the shell is all that remains. An eyesore, right?
But, interestingly we’ve developed a perverse fondness for this phone booth, in its antiquarian-relic state. It still serves as a great landmark for visitors to our place, as well as a memory of a time gone by. What if the empty phone booths around town became public art pieces? Light boxes? Color-coded district markers?
Above is just one example of the creative use of (mainly) defunct phone booths. Even as an ephemeral program, it could be a fun way to get color and art woven into the streetscape.