What to do with New York’s payphones?

The City of New York is looking for ideas for what to do with more than 11,000 soon-to-be obsolete public payphones across its five boroughs.


Source: Matt Jiggins

Payphone vendor agreements are set to expire next year, and the city has launched a public competition, Reinvent Payphones, looking for ideas for the sites.

Recognising that the traditional payphone has become increasingly redundant with the rise of mobile phone use and digital media, the City has proposed a clean slate and hopes to rally students, designers, urban planners, technologists, architects, creators and legal and policy experts to create physical and/or virtual prototypes.

Designs will be judged for their ‘ability to connect New Yorkers and enable communication, including for safety and emergency purposes’.

Other criteria cover: creativity, defined as ‘originality, innovation and quality of idea’; visual design, which covers aesthetics and user experience; functionality including ‘flexibility, versatility, scalability, accessibility, and sustainability’; as well as community impact.

The organisers suggest that almost all sites will have the capability to take on alternative communication methods including WiFi, touch screens, and mobile device charging facilities.

Other guidelines include possible sustainable power sources, protection from vandalism, and safety measures to ensure the phones could still work when there is greater need – like during Hurricane Sandy when usage tripled but kiosks were reliant on electricity via phone lines rather than external sources.

The competition is open to US citizens over 18, although supervised entries can be made by those under 18, and a deadline has been set for 18 February.

Up to 15 semi-finalists will be invited to present the ideas at a demonstration day on 5 March, before three winning designs are put to public vote on the City of New York’s Facebook page.

For more information visit www.reinventpayphones.splashthat.com.

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