Don't Forget to Call: A Visit to the First Ever Red Phone Box on its 90th Birthday

By Kate Longman on at

London's red telephone box celebrates its 90th birthday this year, and to mark the occasion arts organisation Measure has teamed up with curator Poppy Bowers to commission four consecutive audio installations inside the first ever wooden prototype of the iconic street fixture.

Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924, the 90-year-old phone box sits modestly tucked away within the grounds of the Royal Academy in central London, and currently houses a new sonic composition created by the sound poet and writer Holly Pester. Pester has recorded an 11 minute piece titled Temperament, Temperature: A Telephone Drama of Prolific Call, Horizontal Speeching and an Epic of Gossip, inspired by transcriptions of celebrity phone calls she discovered on YouTube – at times funny and surreal, at others charming and profound.

After dialling the special freephone number and listening to the single voice conversation rumbling down the phone, you can't help but think about the simple four walls encasing you; a telephone kiosk, known as “K2”, designed not only to bring this thoroughly modern form of communication to British streets in the 1920s, but also to compliment the beautiful architecture surrounding the caller.

When Giles Gilbert Scott won the design competition commission in 1924, he was probably unaware of how important his design would become to British street iconography. It's somehow sad to see something so important become obsolete so quickly, now that we've all got smartphones in our pockets, so if you're able, take a quiet trip to the K2 and enjoy a memorable (if one-sided) conversation on the telephone – while you still can.

The artists whose works are installed in the kiosk over the next eight months are:

Holly Pester (19th September - 14th November)
Aura Satz (15th November - 9th January)
Dan Scott (10th January - 6th March)
Lawrence Abu Hamdan (7th March - 3rd May)

For more info, take a look at Measure's website.