Iconic phone booths serve a new purpose

Two booths on Huaihai Road M. and Fuxing Road W. in Xuhui District have been converted into "one-book booths." A total of six such telephone booths are now reading kiosks.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A reader browses through a book at a booth on Huaihai Road M. 

The iconic red telephone booths on Shanghai roads are getting a makeover.

Two booths on Huaihai Road M. and Fuxing Road W. in Xuhui District have been converted into “one-book booths.” A total of six such telephone booths are now reading kiosks.

In two other booths, people are encouraged to donate books, which are sterilized first before being passed on to readers.

Two others have been converted into “celebrity booths” with photos and introductions of writers and artists who lived in Xuhui. Readers are advised to visit the former residences of famous celebrities like writer Ba Jin (1904-2005) and playwright Ke Ling (1901-2000).

Some of the booths have Wi-Fi and are equipped with USB interfaces for readers to charge their mobile phones. Writing materials are provided in some of these booths for people to share their ideas or even socialize with each other.

The iconic red booths are being retained to preserve the flavor of Shanghai roads. It however still serves its original purpose — which is make calls, especially for emergencies.

“The renovated booths aim to nurture the reading habit of the people and boost the city’s cultural atmosphere,” said Fang Yunfang, director of Xuhui library. “The booths will also serve as an access to nearby libraries, celebrities’ residences and other cultural facilities,” she said.

“It is a great idea to turn the telephone booths into reading rooms,” said Alexis Miche, an expatriate from Nantes, France. “Passers-by and travelers need a place to relax and read. We have similar reading sites in French cities,” he added.

Some users also gave suggestions.

“I think it would be better to have a seat inside and air-conditioning during summer,” said Chen Xuanrong, a university student.

The district’s culture bureau and China Telecom, the owner and operator of the telephone booths, needed six months to decide on the renovation and finish the revamping.

“The current 1.0 version of the reading booths are open to public ideas for any upgrading,” said Li Gen, executive director of Lixin Culture, the designer of the booths.

A surveillance camera has also been installed to ensure both safety and fire concerns, said Tang Ming, an official with the China Telecom.

“China Telecom is studying how to provide more up-to-date functions in these booths, which are still important for making emergency calls,” Tang said.

In Yangpu District, 10 telephone booths have been turned into miniature art galleries.



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