The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

60’s icon faces extinction

Rare K8 telephone boxes put forward for protection by The Twentieth Century Society

The red telephone box is again under threat. This time however it’s the 1960’s version. Kiosk 8 or K8 as it has become known was designed by Bruce Martin (b 1917 – ) and unveiled in 1968 as a modern version of the ‘classic’ red phone box.

With its large glass panels, even brighter shade of red and distinctive illuminated top, the K8 won a competition organised by the GPO in 1965 and was hailed as a masterpiece of industrial design. 11,000 were manufactured, but now only 12 examples remain as working phone boxes.

The Twentieth Century Society has therefore submitted the 12 survivors to English Heritage in the hope that they will be listed along with the 3,000 already designated Gilbert Scott designed K6’s across the country. The Society has also launched a nationwide search through its members to see if any other K8’s can be uncovered.

Bruce Martin’s K8 was the last red, cast iron telephone box ever to be constructed in the UK. As such it represents the final stage in the lineage of a design that has become nothing short of a global icon, a symbol of Britain. In the same manner that Gilbert Scott modernised his K2 for his 1936 K6 kiosk, so Bruce Martin reworked Scott’s classic K6 ‘Jubilee’ kiosk for a new era – responding to the most complex brief ever issued for a piece of street furniture.

Vandal-proof, weather-proof and easy to maintain– the K8 should have been the modern equivalent of the 1930’s K6. But when BT began de-commissioning boxes  in 1984 – K8’s were the first in the firing line and at the time, were too young to be protected by English Heritage’s 30 year listing rule.

Unless they are listed, K8’s will soon be extinct.