That there? That's a TARDIS on a roof.
That there? That's a TARDIS on a roof. Credit: Andrea Bauer

Unfamiliar with the interdimensional travels of Doctor Who? Well, the TARDIS (aka Time and Relative Dimension in Space) is a time machine that resembles an old-school London police box from the 60s. And there’s a replica of one on the roof of the “hackerspace” Pumping Station: One in Avondale that has caught the attention of neighbors, and, as a result, the attention of the law.

During the early-morning installation of the box in April, an onlooker assumed robbery. “I’m not sure who it was, but someone called the police,” PSO president Eric Stein tells me. “They thought we were cat burglars breaking in through the roof. Not kidding.”

The TARDIS was originally constructed over the course of three weeks in December 2009 as a photo booth and darkroom. It was built to realistic scale through careful examination of a photo of David Tennant, the tenth Doctor, standing inside the box. After being hoisted onto the roof of the three-story building piece-by-piece with climbing gear Stein happened to have in his car, the TARDIS was reassembled with standard workshop tools. And though the replica obviously can’t breach the space-time continuum, its purpose is still techy.

“Our lease allows for antenna mounting,” says Stein. “So we plan to use this to store and protect ham-radio antennas. It’s perfect—lightweight wood construction, door, everything.”

And what about the police intervention on the morning of the installation? No one got into trouble, but it was memorable. “It was amusing to have the hackerspace pinned in on all sides by three police cruisers while you’re on the roof.”