Friday, 2 July 2010

K2, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, London 1925 – 1935

the londoner -
our story really begins in 1920 with the Post office’s first attempt to commission a standard public call box to replace the multitude of weird and wonderful ‘silent cabinets’ randomly popping up everywhere. the result was the concrete K1 with its noticeable red door. though hardly any survive (the concrete frame weathered predictably badly) it did pave the way for the subsequent model the K2 - the first proper, familiar looking red phone box.

the domed roofed and all-over red K2 was the result of a competition held in 1924 and won by Sir Giles Gilbert-Scott, who was to continue refining his iconic design until the 1960’s. learning the lessons of the K1prototype, he made it entirely of cast iron and weighing in at over 1 ton it certainly didn’t come cheap, limiting its production chiefly to the capital and the south east. consequently it’s probably the K2 more than the K6 that visitors to the UK think of when they think red call box. look closely in places where they coincide, as they frequently do in the capital and you’ll notice that the K2 dwarfs the later K6 and that its horizontal windows are of equal width. all K2 boxes are listed buildings, and though predominately a London phenomenon, a handful escaped to the provinces, notably Oxford. there are also several dotted around the UK in private collections and museums.

cost and bulk aside it was cleverly constructed and an instant success. ventilation was provided via the crown in the roof section - it was made up from small, round holes – and legend has it that the dome was Scott's homage to the 18th Century architect Sir John Soane, R.A. (1753-1837) whose family tomb is surmounted by a very similar feature. whatever the inspiration this is a proper roof, dealing effectively with the elements, rain and litter. an ingenious design suitable for town and country, just waiting that little bit of tweaking to take the entire empire by storm and revolutionise the way we all talked to each other....

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