Have you ever wondered why there’s a red phone box in the grounds of Dulwich Picture Gallery? It’s a nod to the architectural history of the building.
Under the terms of the bequest which established the DPG – which stated that it should be available for the ‘inspection of the public’ – Sir Francis Bourgeois RA insisted that the architect for the new building should be his friend, Sir John Soane (1754-1837). Sir John’s building is still standing today, despite being bombed in the Second World War, and has been added to in recent years.
In 1924 the Royal Fine Arts Commission invited three respected architects to submit designs for a new telephone box that could be mass-produced, yet would be a design classic. The winner was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, designer of the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. Scott was a trustee of the Sir John Soane’s museum at the time, and it’s interesting to note that the shape of the roof of the DPG mausoleum influenced his design.
Compare the two and you’ll see a definite resemblance. You’ll even see the same shape on Sir John Soane’s mausoleum, which he designed for himself and his wife, and which stands to this day in the churchyard of Old St Pancras Church.
We are led to believe it no longer works. How on earth did it get there, I wonder.
I spotted another example last year while visiting the northern Spanish town of Bilbao. After visiting the excellent Guggenheim Museum I took the funicular railway to the top of a hill and look what I spotted in someone’s back garden! (I got told off by the phone box’s present owner for clambering over their back fence to take this picture, hence the poor camera shot, I’m afraid.)
Alas, my Basque is useless so I wasn’t able to ascertain why on earth they have such a thing in their garden. The mind boggles.
It just goes to show how some things we take for granted in London are revered around the world. The influence of many things we see around us on a daily basis can be felt far and wide.
What else have people seen around the globe that reminds them of home? firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll perhaps show it on the website. If you’ve taken a picture on your travels that reminds you of our local area, do send it in to DOV by email.