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The Hidden Secrets of The K2 Telephone Boxes at Burlington House

The Hidden Secrets of The K2 Telephone Boxes at Burlington House

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Few iconic designs shout London as much as the K2 Telephone Boxes. 

Created to replace the unpopular Kiosk No 1 (K1) boxes commissioned by the General Post Office in 1921, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic design was submitted to and the eventual winner of a competition held by the Royal Fine Arts commission in 1924. 

Surprisingly few of the K2 design bright red boxes remain in the city today, yet these boxes just inside the entrance of Burlington House in Mayfair are yet more special… 

K2 Telephone Boxes

These are Gilbert Scott’s original prototypes – one wooden, one cast iron that together are the smallest listed buildings in London. 

Gilbert Scott’s Design of the K2 Telephone Box 

Gilbert Scott, who also designed the Battersea Power Station, Cambridge University Library and Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, took inspiration for the classic design from the tomb Sir John Soane created for his late wife in the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church. 

Seeing the neoclassical lines and elegant structure found in Soane’s design, he applied it to the kiosk with spectacular success. 

The kiosks had a domed roof, decorated with a cleverly perforated crown to allow air circulation and latticed glass panels on three sides. 

K2 Telephone Box Royal Academy

Red might be the colour forever associated with these telephone boxes, but Scott’s design actually proposed that they be painted silver with a blue interior. The General Post Office rejected this idea, opting instead for the iconic red we’ve come to know so well. 

Approximately 1,700 K2 telephone boxes were installed across London: the first in 1926. Interestingly, there aren’t many Kiosk Twos outside of London because the cast iron construction made them very difficult to transport over long distances. 

The Post Office asked Scott to create a revised design to allow them to be rolled out across other regions. Subsequent iterations including the concrete K3, and much lighter K6 (many more of which have survived to the present day) were installed throughout the country. 

K2 Telephone Box Prototypes: Practical Information and Map 

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BA

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