In part 2 of our series on interesting exports, we look at the humble Phone Box Designed by Architect Sir Giles Gilbert-Scott (who also designed Battersea Power Station – not far up the road from ABC Selfstore Wandsworth).
The Red Telephone box is something of a British Institution. Along with Black Cabs, the London Bus and Royal Mail Pillar Boxes they’re as much a part of our nation’s fabric as afternoon tea. So it’s no surprise that this obsolete national icon is becoming an intriguing memorabilia export and popping up in all corners of the world.
The British Public have had the luxury of making calls from a Telephone Box for almost 100 years. It was 1920 when the imaginatively named ‘K1’ was first introduced (the K standing for Kiosk) by the General Post Office (GPO), who were at that time running the fledgling telecoms network. It wasn’t a popular design and by 1924 (and a couple of false starts with unpopular new designs) the Royal Fine Art Commission were brought in to oversee a competition to design a new one. 3 architects were invited to present designs alongside the GPO and Birmingham Civic Society. Gilbert-Scott’s design won and by 1926 was being cast in iron and deployed around London. Revisions to the design in different (and cheaper) materials were made over the following decade. By 1937
All they can do is make a call, they don’t do apps or connect to the internet. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a big second hand market for the UK’s unique architectural take in booth based telephony. From Israel, to Cyprus, from Cuba to Oregon the Red Phone box is a symbol of Britain’s penchant for engineering that is functional, yet aesthetically interesting.
So much so that these days you can even buy a flat-packed replica and have it shipped anywhere in the world.