New Lives For Old Phone Booths

  • The use of phone booths is declining. (I know I’m beating a dead horse now.) Even tourists favor buying a cheap-ass prepaid phone instead of visiting a phone booth when they want to make a call. Phone booths are an old, location-dependent concept, so we have a serious surplus of them on the streets and squares of the cities. It’s a challenge to recycle them and give the phone booth a new, fresh function.

    Phone Booth Library
    In Westbury-sub-Mendip in the county of Somerset, United Kingdom, the traditional red phone booth has been recycled into one of the country’s smallest lending libraries, stocking hundred books. The villagers can use the micro-library 24 hours a day, selecting books, DVDs and CDs. The idea is simple: users leave an item (a book they’ve read, for instance) and take one item. When Westbury-sub-Mendip lost its phone booth and mobile library at the same time, a resident of the village came up with the idea to re-use the booth as a small book center. It became a big success. The council bought the phone booth from British Telecom for £1. Meanwhile, the telecom company has received “770 applications for communities to ‘adopt a kiosk’, and so far 350 boxes have been handed over to parish councils”. Classic red phone booths have been turned into art installations, a shower and even a public toilet.

    Smoking Room
    Another idea to re-use phone booths was recently presented by designer Simone de Graef. She combined the decline of the typical green Dutch Design phone booth with the public smoking ban in hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes in The Netherlands, and proposed transforming the booths into smoking cabins. Which is interesting, since “calling, which used to be constrained in fixed lines and locations, is now entirely mobile and it is now socially acceptable to call almost everywhere. (…) While smoking, which used to be mobile and done everywhere, is becoming increasingly limited to designated locations”, is argued on Next Nature. De Graef’s proposal to recycle phone booths as smoking cabins isn’t brought into practice yet, and I doubt if it will ever happen…