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Phone Booth: Hello, who’s speaking?

Living Space Inspiration Communication

A rain-soaked day, a street nearly void of people, pale lantern light reflected on the cobblestones, a phone booth, a dark figure: "Mr. Morgan? I have what you’re looking for. Be there today at ten o’clock at Agerton Park. And Morgan: come alone." The man in the trench coat hangs up, opens the booth door, glances quickly about and disappears into the evening fog...

We all know scenes like this one. Even if we don't associate them with a particular film, they are part of our cinematic "memory". Whether it’s a secret agent, blackmailer or informant – at some point they were all looking for a phone booth.
 

What the booth can do

The phone booth has existed, both in film and in reality, for 130 years. Despite strong competition from mobile phones, phone booths still populate some public corners and squares. Each country assigns them a characteristic design. The classic is of course England’s glaring red booths. And Sweden also has their picaresque, decorative "Rikstelefone"; in Peking, people speak into an orange-coloured mussel; and in Paris, it’s a high-tech look with glass walls.

But as always, whenever objects become part of the everyday landscape, a reinterpretation phase will surface at some point – artistic, functional, or simply from the joy of provocation. Why not change the function? Suddenly, we find a phone booth in the middle of the city filled to the brim with water, with lazily swimming exotic fish staring out: the phone booth as aquarium. Installed at the Light Festival 2007 in Lyon by the artists Benoit Deseille and Bufalino Benedetto. Definitely a new perspective.

Or in the inner courtyard of Vienna’s WUK, where a former phone booth has undergone an artistic transformation into a miniature art booth. In this project by Christine Baumann, artists use the booth in rotating exhibitions to display works for a specific space – small, but attention-grabbing... (WUK)

And then of course there is the business take on the phone booth. Since phone booths aren’t being used much anymore, Telekom Austria is converting them to electricity filling stations. There are already 30 such retrofits throughout Austria.
 

Out of the corner

So does the phone booth have a future maintaining its original function? Who really needs a "nailed-down" space when we have the ultimate freedom of the mobile telephone?

But it precisely this situation that reveals the benefits of the phone booth. Not necessarily connected to telephone wires and not necessarily on the street – a different virtue is being rediscovered: it shuts out noise! Who hasn't left their workplace to escape all the noise and business and find a "quiet" corner in the kitchen or filing room for some peace and quiet to make a phone call? And besides, "vertical telephoners" are also looking for a quieter sanctuary.
Just wait – it won’t be long before the phone booth for indoor use makes an appearance! There are already numerous ideas and design studies. Sometimes they look like hairdryers or lampshades hanging from the ceiling, sometimes like large pipes that provide privacy from your shoulders to the ceiling. Or they assume the classic box shape, a person-sized niche or cube that is mounted at eye-level on the wall.

For the designers at PearsonLloyd, this has long been in the planning for Bene's PARCS product line. Integrated effectively into the PARCS design style, a module will soon be available. Wall-mounted or freestanding, both versions fit seamlessly into the PARCS concept, offering a flexible and facilitating environment for individualised and communication-oriented ways of working.
 

Sidestep: Life-savers and death traps – the phone booth in film

The phone booth made its first heroic appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Birds". When the birds descend upon the coastal city of Bodega Bay to peck out protagonist Melanie Daniels’s eyes, one of the film’s most famous scenes involves the last possible refuge: a phone booth. While chaos breaks out around her...

The phone booth also serves an equally life-saving purpose in a completely different film context. What does the question "red pill or blue pill" say to you? That’s right – "The Matrix": The world that we know is only a complex computer simulation while human beings are being farmed as living energy sources by intelligent machines. Only a few people know about it and are trying to liberate people from the matrix. And of course they have to be able to tap into the matrix – and get out again. And getting out takes a telephone. Wow, Trinity, that was close!

The phone booth in "Dirty Harry" is almost a supporting actor. Whenever Clint Eastwood doesn’t reach the next phone booth on time, a young girl will die, hunted by a crazy killer from phone booth to phone booth through half of San Francisco...

The most memorable phone booth thriller of recent memory is definitely "Phone Booth". Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is trapped as soon as he picks up the receiver in the dirty phone booth.

And the phone booth’s appearance in the Spanish short film "La Cabina" (1972) is pretty creepy. Here a man enters a phone booth but can’t get out of it. And passers-by can’t help him either. Finally, two people from the telephone company come along, load the booth into their vehicle and take it to a building outside of the city. He’s hoping to be set free, but to his horror he sees innumerable phone booths in which dead people are in various stages of decomposition. Ugh ... now we really love our mobile phones.


  

Author

Ronnie Heiner


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