Department of Urban Betterment

Phone Booth Book Share

New York City

2010 to present

With smart phones near universal, one might wonder why public payphones still occupy so much sidewalk space. The Department of Urban Betterment’s (DUB) Phone Booth Book Share is part of a series of urban interventions that explore obsolete street technology. It might look like a simple repurposing of phone booths into community book shares, but DUB’s motto – nascetur ridiculus mus, “and a ridiculous mouse will be brought forth” – hints at a grander objective. Architect John Locke invokes Homer to argue, “The central office has no brain. The paternalistic top- down strategy of traditional urban planning has been a waste of heroic labors. We can match modest labors with exceptional gains by turning even a few of our neighbors into consciously critical observers.”

Accessibility, Community, Economy, Information, Pleasure, Sustainability
275 per booth
7 days per booth
Problem - obsolete phone booths
Solution - repurpose into community sharing system