A toilet. A torture chamber. A teleportation booth. These are some of the repurposing proposals for Hong Kong’s 2,900 indoor and outdoor public payphone booths.
Local authorities have given the green light to NGO Designing Hong Kong to collect public suggestions on how to revamp the unloved kiosks.
With the rise of mobile phones, payphone booth-use has declined.
According to the Office of Communications Authority, public payphones have an “extremely low usage rate” and generate an average of HK$1 revenue a day, with around 56 per cent of them earning less.
In recent years, the neglected booths have attracted complaints from members of the public who say they take up space on the city’s narrow pedestrian pathways; while drivers say the cubicles block their sightlines.
‘Memories of a time long gone’
“I always thought it curious why we still have payphones along our streets, in ferry terminals and other public locations. They appear memories of a time long gone by. I can’t recall seeing anyone use one recently. Their forlorn presence makes you wonder why we don’t get rid of them,” Paul Zimmerman, district councillor and founder of Designing Hong Kong, said.
Zimmerman added that payphones are important assets that should not be wasted, with each location fixed with typhoon-proof foundation, a communications line and power supply.
Designing Hong Kong, which aims to achieve sustainable development in the city, has narrowed down 34 top proposals from members of the public. Voting has opened for the favourites.