Just outside a former Telephone Exchange on Hall Road in Maida Vale is something very strange – a telephone box that’s twice the normal height.
It’s actually a piece of artwork by the French designer, Philippe Starck, more famous for his lemon juice squeezer than phone boxes, and was installed here as part of the permission for the Post Office Telephone Exchange building to be converted into residential flats by Yoo. The developer had originally planned a different work of art, but that was rejected so they turned to Philippe Starck, who had already worked on the interior design for the building to come up with something new.
And he chose a double-decker telephone box.
There are a number of different types of telephone box to choose from, but the K6 model was chosen as the Telephone Exchange was built in 1937, during the reign of King George VI, and the K6 telephone box was commissioned to celebrate King George VI’s Silver Jubilee in 1935.
It was made from two original K6 telephone kiosks which were welded together to form one unit, then restored to “Grade-II listed museum standard”. They also restored the interior to how it would have looked like in 1935, with a bakelite telephone and an original coin box.
Deviating from what a 1935 person would have seen though and to add a flair of art to the interior, the design upgraded the phone box with velvet, marble and yellow mirrors, plus a pendant light above the telephone, all to give it a more upmarket feel. The door is locked shut, so you can’t use the phone – as it’s art to look at not be interactive with.
The lighting inside the phone box, and the classic lighting of the sign on the outside also act as a way of illuminating the courtyard the phone box sit in, which happens to be the entrance to the block of flats. Not bad for a door light.
The public art was approved by Westminster Council in 2003 as they considered “this light-hearted piece was appropriate for the location”, and who could disagree, it’s quite delightfully whimsical, and I doubt there are many residents who don’t smile a bit when they get home to this on their doorstep.
It was installed in February 2004.