DESIGNER ronan + erwan bouroullec
The Bouroullecs are French industrial designers--and brothers--who pride themselves on creating designs that are simple, intelligent and obvious.
The Concept: The Bouroullecs like to take existing objects and push their functionality to the limit, thus extending their uses in unexpected ways. Instead of a public phone, this is a public umbrella, or Street Umbrella, as they have dubbed it. A mobile phone is incorporated into the handle, and the point acts as an antenna. The umbrella protects the speaker from rain, sun or the rest of the street's noise and activities so that he or she can have a conversation. Set into the wall behind the Street Umbrella is a screen with which users can navigate the telephone menu. The screen could also show the person the user is talking with or display images and information.
DESIGNER blu dot
A furniture-design studio started by artists and architects in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1996, Blu Dot is known for its ingenious, cheerful and inexpensive designs.
The Concept: In a wireless world, the phone booth becomes a place that serves the basic, immutable needs humans have when they communicate: seclusion, shelter, a place to sit, listen and talk. Perhaps the most universal expression of such space is a tree. Grafted to the tree is a piece of technology. It's invisible; it has no keypad or screen. Simply step under the tree canopy, and new acoustic technology blocks out the noise of the street; the voice of the person talking next to you is inaudible. "What's provided is the most elusive public amenity in the wireless, mobile world," says Blu Dot's John Christakos. "Privacy."
DESIGNER shop architects
This New York City design firm has projects that range from museums to multistory residential buildings.
The Concept: When closed, the kiosk is a sort of electronic bulletin board that displays information about events in the neighborhood, e-mailed in by local businesses. When someone approaches, the kiosk opens up so the user can recharge a mobile phone, download information from the Internet or, yes, even make a telephone call. The flowerlike structure also provides shelter and light (from the tips of its petals) while monitoring pollution. Says SHoP's Gregg Pasquarelli:"We see it as halfway between a tree and a piece of sculpture."
This London-based cross-disciplinary group of designers and artists specializes in innovative urban-scale projects.
The Concept: The public phone booth becomes a site for gathering and disseminating information, using any or all of the following components.
The Electric Tree: An electronic community bulletin board, connected to a website where locals can post messages that are relayed through a screen and a loudspeaker disguised as a bird.
A Personal Signpost: A database of local information, directions and places of interest that can be accessed via mobile phone.
The World-Wise Well: Send a question to the well from your cell phone, and it answers from the Internet; fortunes forecast, advice administered and wise words told.
Networked Park Bench: A wired-up park bench, complete with power outlets and an open-access wireless network with a high-speed Internet connection.