The United Kingdom’s signature red phone booths are still in demand, but not just for calls anymore. In response to resident requests, British Telecommunications began selling the booths for £1 in 2008. Now, more than 2,500 have been adopted.
Last year, two London School of Economics innovators fashioned one into a free cellphone charging station on Tottenham Court Road. The success of the solar-powered stall, visited about 80 times a day, led to funding for ten more in the city’s center, and the founders often receive queries from those around the globe who want to follow suit.
But technology isn’t the only way these booths reconnect with locals. Some have transformed into art galleries, coffee shops, defibrillator stations, and mini-libraries that operate on a take-one, leave-one policy and hold as many as 300 books. Gloucester company English Phone Boxes can even fulfill custom requests, which include everything from mini-offices to pint-size bars.