The “Revival” of Red Telephone Boxes of London: The Solarboxes

Red Telephone Boxes are one of the cultural icon of London.
In Britain, mainly in London, there is a large quantity of telephone boxes. Placed on street corners and outside stations or corner stores, they always evoke the attention of tourists like the soldiers of a Guards regiment, the black taxis or the double decker buses. Even if we are in a contemporary world made up of smartphones, iPad and tablets, the traditional red telephone boxes are still a favorite object for tourists and British people. They are a photographic symbol and a relevant souvenir icon in British shops: for instance, there are metal moneyboxes, pencils, pens, phone covers, bags, magnets, key rings and other items that show the traditional red telephone boxes.

Moreover, thanks to their Victorian style, red telephone boxes remind of the late 19th century, a period of political stability and freedom, which marked the growth and the fall of the British Empire. Their mixture of old and new is something magical: they represent past, present but maybe not future. Why?

During the last ten years, because of vandalism, many red telephone boxes have disappeared. Fortunately, about 2000 red telephone boxes are currently visible in the streets, because of touristic, cultural and traditional reasons. Thanks to the “Adopt a Kiosk” program some unused Red Telephone Boxes underwent a sort of “recycling”. Thus, since 2009, more than 1,500 red telephone boxes turned into grocery shops, florists, wildlife information centers or mini libraries and book exchanges.
Moreover, in Britain (especially in London), iconic telephone boxes got a green makeover, becoming “Solarboxes”.

While many phone boxes in Britain fall into disuse, Solarbox is giving them a new life: this is the work of two geography graduates from London’s School of Economics, Harold Craston and Kirsty Kenney. According to them, many red telephone boxes have become synonymous with anti-social behavior, presenting a negative addition to the public spaces: accordingly, Solarbox is about reversing this situation of vandalism.

The first ever Solar Box took place in early October 2013 on Tottenham Court Road, at one of London’s busiest crossroads. With a green makeover and solar panels, the phone box has modified its functions: the receiver turned into four USB ports for charging smartphones and tablets. In addition, Solarbox can charge up to 100 phones a day, providing a boost of 20 per cent battery in ten minutes. It takes three hours of sunlight a day to operate all year round: solarboxes need so little sunlight because of the integrated battery, which charges during summer months or sunnier days. Moreover, this type of battery is able to power advertising screen, sensors and LEDs.
Even if charging phones is free, the aim of this business model is to advertise: for instance, while users are charging their phones, adverts of several products or services appear.

So they are a perfect and ecological solution but what about red telephone boxes?

Obviously, they will not disappear completely: from this point of view, London always will pay a lot of attention to the protection of its symbols.

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