June 23, 2014

ENGLAND : Red Telephone Kiosk - London


URBAN-STREET VIGNETTES

Red telephone box



The classic red telephone booth in London, England
Introduction

The red telephone box, a telephone kiosk for a public telephone designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was a familiar sight on the streets of the United Kingdom, Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar. Despite a reduction in their numbers in recent years, the traditional British red telephone box can still be seen in many places throughout the UK, and in current or former British colonies around the world. The colour red was chosen to make them easy to spot.

From 1926 onwards, the fascias of the kiosks were emblazoned with a prominent crown, representing the British government. The red phone box is often seen as an iconic British symbol throughout the world.

The paint colour used is known as "cherry red" and is defined by a British Standard, BS 381C-539.


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Red Telephone Box : 
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Design history

K1
The first standard public telephone kiosk introduced by the United Kingdom Post Office was produced in concrete in 1920 and was designated K1 (Kiosk No.1). This design was not of the same family as the familiar red telephone boxes. Very few high-quality examples remain. One example is located in Trinity market in Kingston-upon-Hull where it is still in use.

K2
K2 red telephone boxes on Broad Street, Covent Garden, London
The red telephone box was the result of a competition in 1924 to design a kiosk that would be acceptable to the London Metropolitan Boroughs which had hitherto resisted the Post Office's effort to erect K1 kiosks on their streets.


Pierced Royal Crown at Kiosk No 2, K2 - in London, England

The first telephone kiosk was known as the K2 - the K stands for "kiosk".

The Royal Fine Art Commission was instrumental in the choice and eventual collapse of the British standard kiosk. Because of widespread dissatisfaction with the GPO's design, the Metropolitan Boroughs Joint Standing Committee organised a competition for a superior one in 1923, but the results were disappointing. The Birmingham Civic Society then produced a design of its own—in reinforced concrete—but it was informed by the Director of Telephones that the design produced by the Office of the next Engineer-in-Chief was preferred; as the Architects’ Journal commented, 'no one with any knowledge of design could feel anything but indignation with the pattern that seems to satisfy the official mind.' The Birmingham Civic Society did not give up and, with additional pressure from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Town Planning Institute and the Royal Academy, the Postmaster General was forced to think again; and the result was that the RFAC organised a limited competition.

Giles Gilbert Scott
in 1933
The organisers invited entries from three respected architects and, along with the designs from the Post Office and from The Birmingham Civic Society, the Fine Arts Commission judged the competition and selected the design submitted by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The invitation had come at the time when Scott had been made a trustee of Sir John Soane's Museum—his design for the competition was in the classical style, but topped with a dome reminiscent of Soane's self-designed mausoleums in St Pancras' Old Churchyard and Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. (The original wooden prototypes of the entries were later put into public service at under-cover sites around London. That of Scott's design is the only one known to survive and is still where it was placed all those years ago, in the left entrance arch to the Royal Academy.)

The Post Office chose to make Scott's winning design in cast iron (Scott had suggested mild steel) and to paint it red (Scott had suggested silver, with a "greeny-blue" interior) and, with other minor changes of detail, it was brought into service as the Kiosk No.2 or K2. From 1926 K2 was deployed in and around London and the K1 continued to be erected elsewhere.

K3
K3, introduced in 1929, again by Gilbert Scott was similar to K2 but was constructed from concrete and intended for nationwide use. Cheaper than the K2, it was still significantly more costly than the K1 and so that remained the choice for low-revenue sites. The standard colour scheme for both the K1 and the K3 was cream, with red glazing bars. A rare surviving K3 kiosk can be seen beside the Penguin Beach exhibit at ZSL London Zoo, where it has been protected from the weather by the projecting eaves and recently restored to its original colour scheme,

K4
K4 (designed by the Post Office Engineering Department in 1927) incorporated a post box and machines for buying postage stamps on the exterior. Only 50 kiosks of this design were built.

K5
K5 was a plywood construction introduced in 1934 and designed to be assembled and dismantled and used at exhibitions.

K6
K6, illuminated at night
In 1935 the K6 (kiosk number six) was designed to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V. It went into production in 1936. K6 was the first red telephone kiosk to be extensively used outside London, and many thousands were deployed in virtually every town and city, replacing most of the existing kiosks and establishing thousands of new sites. It has become a British icon, although it was not universally loved at the start. The red colour caused particular local difficulties and there were many requests for less visible colours. The red that is now much loved was then anything but, and the Post Office was forced into allowing a less strident grey with red glazing bars scheme for areas of natural and architectural beauty. Ironically, some of these areas that have preserved their telephone boxes have now painted them red.


THE TELEPHONE BOX
Name : Kiosk No 2
Designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, 
Designed : 1924, Introduced : 1926 
End of production : 1935

London,  England

The United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland


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