While at Interior Design Show West last month, we were drawn to a project commissioned for the show called “Off the Hook.” The show’s organizers had obtained a number of discarded telephone booths and put out a call to local designers, challenging them to create something from the materials.
Contexture Design’s Nathan Lee and Trevor Coghill responded, their first thought going to who is most affected by the steady retreat and removal of phone booths from city streets: the homeless. “We really thought of the telephone booth as a public amenity that is being lost,” says Lee. “Their removal means one less service available to people living on the streets.”
Lee says Contexture’s design process often starts with used materials—their history, their provenance—and a focus on sustainability. One of their earliest designs was the “Coffee Cuff,” a piece of reclaimed wood veneer intended to replace disposable cardboard cuffs, or to be worn as a bracelet. Another project see old maps laser-cut into various objects, like migrating crows or homeward-bound salmon, and suspended in delicate mobiles. (Click here for details and images.)
With Home Phone, there’s even more layers, and more social commentary. The piece reimagines the telephone booth as a temporary shelter. The design addresses basic housing needs, incorporating electricity and running water, as well as liveability: the stowage ottoman offers dry storage while the door removes to form a platform bed. Construction-grade materials, finished to a high standard, are used to present a dignified respite from the street, despite the limitations of the nine-square-foot space.
It’s a concept piece as much as it is a critique of how street furniture is now being designed to shuffle people along and out of public spaces. Picture: dividers on low garden walls to prevent skateboarding and benches broken up into individual seats to prevent sleeping. Home Phone takes a very different approach, suggesting the street can be a place of welcome, rather than alienation.
The exhibit officially opens tomorrow night, in conjunction with the talk “Ending Homelessness,” and runs until October 25.
Image credit: Contexture Design