As you may recall (and please, forgive the pun), pay phones used to be ubiquitous – in many places they remain a physical presence, but without a use. As Banksy‘s work (above) points out, their primary purpose is arguably quite dead – but, on the upside, that leaves room for all kinds of radical rebirths.
Around the world, old phone booths are also becoming high-tech data hubs. Consider New York City, which has just unrolled a pilot program to turn 250 old phone booths into information centers, providing basic maps, directions and directories to tourists, but also up-to-the-minute emergency information and safety alerts in case of serious storms or other natural disasters.
Local architect John Locke has come up with another, lower-tech, even-easier reuse project for some of the 10,000+ remaining unused public phones on the streets of Manhattan – easily-fabricated micro-libraries that can be slotted into existing boxes, taking advantage of their robust framework and shelter. No fasteners needed for this efficient and inexepensive flat-pack solution.
Across the pond, iconic red-box phone booths of England may be even more well-suited to this particular kind of conversion, being closeable and thus, while not 100% weatherproof, still more completely sealed from the elements. The result is one of “the country’s smallest lending libraries – stocking 100 books. Villagers from Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset can use the library around the clock, selecting books, DVDs and CDs. Users simply stock it with a book they have read, swapping it for one they have not.”
Turning back toward the high-tech, Telekom Austria is tackling over ten thousand disused phone booths, turning them into recharging stations for the nation’s estimated growth toward over a half-million electric vehicles in the next decade. But enough about functional conversions – what about the artistic side? See below for homeless shelters, aquariums, even outhouses made of old phone booths.