Maev Kennedy’s article “Sir John Soane: how tomb for architect’s wife inspired the red telephone box,” published on the Guardian, covers the story behind Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design inspiration for the K2 telephone box.
Sir John Soane’s tribute to his wife, Eliza
When Sir John Soane’s wife, Eliza, died 200 years ago, it had an understandably profound effect on him. To commemorate her life and show his love for her, John designed a unique, beautifully-intricate tomb. Raised in a crowded London graveyard, it stood out as a structure of magnificence and extravagance. But not even John could have predicted its role in the design of the K2 telephone box over a hundred years later.
The tomb that inspired the red telephone box
Giles Gilbert Scott knew the tomb well as a trustee of the Sir John Soane’s Museum for 35 years. Scott saw potential in the four-pillar structure when he put together plans for his design of a telephone box. The K2 was introduced in 1926 and when you compared pictures of it against Eliza’s tomb, you can clearly see the resemblance.
The first K2 kiosks were installed in Kensington and Holborn in central London. Over the next few decades, more kiosks would pop up all over the UK.
The ubiquitous red telephone box is one of Great Britain’s most iconic designs. And yet, its design was inspired by a monument in a graveyard. Not even Sir Soane himself could have imagined his tribute contributing so much to something so great.
You can find out more about this story on The Guardian.