Urban Art, Libraries & More: Upcycling Britain’s Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

When Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s red telephone box was introduced in the 1920s, few could have known that it was destined to become an enduring icon of Britishness.  But almost 90 years later, the colourful kiosks have largely become a thing of the past.  Of course, the upside is that many have come up for sale, some creatively recycled and repurposed in surprising ways, others transformed into urban art exhibits.

Repurposed Kiosks – Libraries, Cash Machines, Art Galleries and … Toilets!

(Images: David Hillas; Geoff Pick; cc-sa-3.0)

Years ago, country folk weren’t impressed by the bright red boxes, lobbying local councils to tone them down.  But times change and several communities have gone to great lengths to preserve what they consider a part of their heritage.  One of the most celebrated examples is the kiosk in Westbury-sub-Mendip (above left), transformed into the smallest library in Britain, and open 24/7, 365 days a year.

(Image: John Grayson, cc-sa-3.0)

According to the BBC: “BT has received 770 applications for communities to ‘adopt a kiosk’, and so far 350 boxes have been handed over to parish councils”.  In addition to libraries and book exchanges, abandoned red telephone boxes and found new leases of life as ATM cash machines (below) and possibly Britain’s smallest art gallery (above).

(Images: John S. TurnerChristine Matthews; cc-sa-3.0)

And while some kiosks have been recycled into miniature art galleries – others have themselves become urban art installations.  Check them out below, and don’t miss this article about a Somerset pensioner who converted a kiosk into his personal toilet.

Red Telephone Boxes as Recycled Art Installations

(Images: Steve FarehamOast House Archive; cc-sa-3.0)

From the local and the homemade (above) to grand designs and professionally commissioned installations (below), these recycled artworks reflect the popularity of the red boxes in the national psyche.

(Image: Don Swanson (see website), cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Whether artistically symbolising the decline of an icon, the graffiti and vandalism such objects inevitably endure, or simply using this denizen of Britishness as a departure point for a truly offbeat creation, Gilbert Scott‘s distinctive design remains an integral part of the street-scene.

(Images: sharkbait (website); Pete Jordan (website); yoga mama; Katy Stoddard (website); cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Finally, an example (above right) outside Archway Tube station in London has been recycled as a flower box, adding a splash of green and yellow, as well as red, to this utilitarian public square.

Keep reading – Decaying Red Telephone Boxes: An Abandoned British Institution



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