Urban Fold

Pop-up Street Libraries Appear in New York

John Metcalfe reports on efforts by one New York architect to utilize the city's ubiquitous pay telephone booths as the settings for pop-up libraries.

The libraries, of which two have been constructed thus far, were born out of architect John Locke's Department of Urban Betterment, a project to "explore the possibilities for an alternative engagement with our urban environment." According to Metcalfe, "Of the two guerrilla libraries that the artist has fashioned, one has been used properly while the other has had its entire collection repeatedly ganked by sticky-fingered pedestrians. Its shelves were also stolen."

In an interview in the piece with Locke, Metcalfe explores the genesis of the project, the fabrication process, and people's reactions to it.

On the premise behind the project, Locke speaks about the transformation of the phone booth itself: "They've already evolved from their original function as person-to-person communication technology into their second iteration as pedestrian-scaled billboards. I wanted to see if there is a third option in that, yes, they get our eyes for advertising dollars, but they can also give value back to a neighborhood. I was most interested in turning what is perceived as an urban liability into an opportunity."

Full Story: How New York Pay Phones Became Guerrilla Libraries


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