phone booth

Have you used a public phone booth with a door for purposes other than using the public phone? It is used as a shelter from a sudden rain, using mobile phones inside, changing clothes, rearranging the bag, or even crying for a while if you must, though being inside a phone booth proper is becoming a faded memory for many. With mobile phones, choosing the physical environment in which we make a call is often up to us. In the early phase of adoption of public phones, phone booths were advertised as essential tool for privacy, making the caller feel more comfortable. Now, some places force mobile phone users to use the phone booth for the comfort of others around the caller.

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In any case, I reckon that designing a phone booth is a challenging task, satisfying the need for privacy as a comfort zone for a voice call (regardless of whose comfort that is) while minimizing the opportunity for exploitation and valdalism by making it too private and comfortable at the same time. With the vast diversity of the telecommunication culture, I always feel that the design of the surviving phone booths still communicates the attitude of the space that they reside in.

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This booth, in front of Meguro station in Tokyo, has semi-ransparent brown walls. It is complete with emergency numbers and a printed phonebook. On the door is a sticker that bears a warning to those attempting to place pinkupira*, issued by the police.
* pinkupira: the kind of advertisements you would find in London’s landmark phonebooths, like this – though it seems to have become significantly less as sexual advertisement became illegal in 2001 in UK.

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This is from London’s old street tube station. With space constraints and the heavy traffic of people, these public phones do not resonate with the concept of comfort or privacy, but serve the necessity of anyone who needs to reach out to someone quickly and efficiently (especially tourists, nowadays).

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This phone booth design in Paris seemed fairly new, very spacious inside and totally transparent.

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These pictures were taken in New Molden, Surrey – London’s suburbia. I never saw anyone using the email / text function in public phone. Booths for silent communication – through keyboards, gestures, screens, would probably require a whole new set of design brief.

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The classic London phone booths, in Smithfield market.

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3 Comments

  1. That’s a nice roundup of some patterns. One more for you – the San Francisco airport, where they’ve kept the large kiosks set up but have removed some of the phones.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/steveportigal/3273160221/

    Reduced maintenance costs for reduced demand but no improvement to the usefulness of the environment.

  2. David Mery wrote:

    The quarterly hacker magazine 2600 has been collecting over the years a great collection of phone booths: http://www.2600.com/phones/

    br -d

  3. Samuel wrote:

    Another use of the phone booth is to keep Collin Farell hostage and make him reconsider his life’s priorities :-)

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