Out-of-service phone booths. Photos by Dave Bledsoe
Technology's surge into the future means that a whole bunch of outdated infrastructure needs to be unplugged. An inkling of the imminent graveyard was recently uncovered by photographer Dave Bledsoe, who found these dilapidated phone booths hiding underneath an elevated railroad near West Harlem Piers in Manhattan. Bledsoe documented these relics in his project This Technology Has Been Disconnected using his non-iPhone camera. "Our modern tech is very convenient, but it tends to be impersonal," the photographer told Architizer. Which would explain why these photos evoke an unexpected twinge of nostalgic sadness.
New York’s payphones are multi-talented installations that perform many tasks these days: They shade us from the sun, wind, and rain, as well as provide shelter for the homeless, tourists, or your coffee cup. (And, if you're lucky, act as a wifi hotspot). One purpose that they rarely serve, however, is actually making phone calls.
Considering our addiction to our smartphones, it is no surprise that the role of the quaint cubicle in the urban landscape is being reconsidered and revamped in preparation for the expiration of their operating contract in October 2014. A flood of creative concepts has swept in to fill in their place, many of which sparked by Mayor Bloomberg’s Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge earlier this year (see our article here).
Let’s face it, though: In the current state of affairs, few New Yorkers would approach these outdated monsters, if not for fear of their germ-infested surfaces then because we don't actually remember anyone's number anymore. Plus, in true consumerist mentality, why share when you could have your own? We would much rather strain to explore creative ways to charge our personal phones (we aren’t supposed to know about outlets in street lamps), rather than face disconnection from our devices.
Perhaps even Bloomberg's payphone redesign is an outdated concept, to be challenged by something like the new urban phone-cpr project “Street Charge” by Pensa. The solar-powered charging stations are popping up in 25 locations around New York City and are already welding our bonds with our smartphones, leaving the clunky metal payphones in the dust.