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Giant phone box wins Scottish ideas contest

3 Dec 19 A proposal to build a 55m-tall phone box in Kirkintilloch has won a competition seeking innovative concepts for Scottish towns.

Kirkintilloch has been named the winner of the Future Town Design Competition after securing more than half of the public votes for its 'Big Red Phone Box' project.

The proposer of the design, John Dickson, said that Kirkintilloch’s ‘USP’ is that it is where the iconic red telephone boxes and GPO post boxes were manufactured until the late 1980s. “We have real heritage that we should exploit,” he said. “I propose that we should build a scaled-up version of the K6 Red Telephone Box, that most recognisable design.”

It should be anything up to 55m high - 20 times normal size, he suggested, and should be sited in Luggie Park, next to where they were built. A similar scaled-up version of a GPO Post Box could be nearby.

Looking into the Big Red Phone Box from outside, visitors would see an image of a 1950s teenage girl talking on the phone. Standing outside the Box could be a 1950s trench-coated businessman, or a fully kitted miner, staring at their watch impatiently. Internally there would be 10 floors; the top one could be restaurant or café. There could be visitors’ experience, transporting people through the history of communications, as well as narratives as to how the Red Phone Boxes had saved many lives over the years. The ground floor would house the reception and visitors centre. Other floors could be utilised for community activities, he said.

Dickson sees the project as giving Kirkintilloch the opportunity to have its own equivalent to the famous 30m-high horse-head sculptures, the Kelpies.  One of the reasons they are so popular is their sheer scale, said Dickson.

The competition – now in its fifth year - is organised by national towns agency Scotland’s Towns Partnership and is aimed at stimulating conversations, provoking ideas and encouraging new approaches to highlight what towns could look like now and in the future.

Entries were shortlisted by a panel composed of Scotland’s Towns Partnership and Threesixty Architecture, and the public vote took place online during Scotland’s Towns Week last month.

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Dickson will now be invited to showcase the project at the annual Towns Tea Party event to an audience of policy-makers and those from across sectors involved in supporting towns.

Other shortlisted design entries included visions for Alloa, Crail, Castle Terrace Edinburgh, Dennistoun Glasgow, Inverness, and Milngavie.

John Dickson, who submitted the entry, said: "I’m delighted that my vision for Kirkintilloch’s future as a unique destination has been overwhelmingly voted for by the people of Kirkintilloch and beyond. Kirky’s Giant Phone Box has captured the imagination of people who now know the prospect exists to transform our town centre towards a bustling and exciting future.” He said that new jobs and businesses would be created “to cater to folk who’ll be attracted to a colossal testimony to our industrial heritage”. He added that he is looking forward to discussing the practicalities with elected representatives, and professionals with the expertise to build it.

Alan Anthony, managing director of Threesixty Architecture, said: “Once again this competition has reinforced how important the town centre is to our communities and how design can play a critical part in repairing and safeguarding our centres. It has also been an opportunity for those that passionately care about their towns to showcase inventive ideas none more so than the winning entry by John Dickson who has eloquently presented his unique design ideas firmly grounded in the unique story of his town, Kirkintilloch.”

Phil Prentice, chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, said: “Congratulations to John Dickson for submitting the winning entry to this year's Future Town Design Competition. His original vision for a 'Big Red Phone Box' visitor centre in Kirkintilloch is rooted in the town's heritage and certainly seems to have resonated locally. Indeed, well done to all shortlisted entrants for submitting high-quality and forward-thinking designs for their towns and city districts.”

He added: "Now in its fifth year, our Future Town Design Competition continues to showcase the potential for towns to harness existing assets and evolve to meet current challenges. The entries received also demonstrated the huge amount of inspiration and expertise out there to help future-proof our towns and city districts for the next generation. As the national body for towns, Scotland's Towns Partnership will continue to play a proactive role in this agenda going forward.”

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