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.
[Thanks to payphone project for the vintage pic, and to julie fishkin for the art piece]
If nothing else, that phone booth could be fixed up and outfitted to serve as a directory to downtown attractions, shops, restaurants, etc. I love the creative reuse of urban elements like this.
I love that idea! I just took a picture of an empty phone booth the other day (along with a gas sign under $2). So sad and where can Superman change into his costume? I hope to see some “artsy” phone booths around town.
Decorating phone booths is a *great* idea. I know that several cities have also started using phone booths as lending libraries or book booths. I’ve been eying a booth on Third Avenue North (across from the Lyric and down the street from the Alabama Theatre) for just that purpose.
For the book booth idea to work, I think one or two volunteers would have to adopt a booth & continuously maintain it.
Here are a few links about book booths:
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