The doors have been removed… for YOUR safety: Dismantling and reassembling the Danish telephone booth

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A sociomaterial case study of how bombs (and their users), doors and politics instigated the destabilization and dismantling of the public telephone booth in Denmark, and the subsequent re-assembling process, through design contests and political struggle, to establish a new appropriate design
Paper Long Abstract:
This sociomaterial case study deals with the destabilization and dismantling of the public telephone booth in Denmark, which began in 1977-1978 when an unforeseen use - a series of bomb attacks - struck the booths in Copenhagen. As a safety measure, police removed the doors on the classic box-shaped telephone booths, which had been a part of Danish communication infrastructure since 1932. But the doors were never reinstalled after the capture of the user, who became known as The Telephone Bomber, and a competition for a new open design was commissioned in 1980. The winning design was far from anything seen on the streets before: The Question Mark was named for its simple form in curved stainless steel. Surprisingly, the design, which had received a price for its accessibility, became the centre of a political deadlock when the Minister for Transportation argued that the booth's shape in fact made it inoperable for wheelchair-users. In contrast, the mayor of Copenhagen was fond of The Question Mark and vetoed alternative designs.
Following several years of dispute, The Question Mark was installed in central Copenhagen, and Utzon Arkitekter, firm of Jørn Utzon, were commissioned to design a second open telephone booth. The Utzon-booth was ready in 1987, and received favourable reactions from the public on its design, which drew on the classic box-shape. I will present how, between human and nonhuman actors, in such different domains as politics, design, infrastructure and terror, the appropriate Danish public telephone booth design was de-stabilized and stabilized again.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventDASTS Conference: Danish Association for Science and Technology Studies -
Duration: 2 Jun 20163 Jun 2016


ConferenceDASTS Conference

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