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Brionvega RR126 radiofonografo

  • Object:

    Radiogram

  • Place of origin:

    Milan (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1966 (designed and made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Castiglioni, Achille, born 1918 - died 2002 (designer)
    Castiglioni, Pier Giacomo, born 1913 - died 1968 (designers)
    Brionvega (manufacturers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plywood, laminated with plastic; polycarbonate; painted aluminium; electrical components; various metals

  • Museum number:

    W.1-2016

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Brionvega produced many cutting-edge audio-visual products throughout the 1960s, often employing well-known industrial designers to create them. The RR126 radiophonograph (‘Radiofonografo’) was designed in 1965 by brothers Achille (1918–2002) and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (1913–1968), it was first manufactured the following year. It was conceived as an anthropomorphic ‘musical pet’, with speakers for its ears and control dials for its face. It is raised on castors, so could be moved around easily, much in common with other informal 1960s designs. The system’s elements could be arranged in several different ways: speakers on top; speakers hooked to the sides; speakers separated from the main unit and placed elsewhere in a room. The ability of the RR126 to be rearranged at will provided a fashionable, witty, Pop-inspired piece of furniture, but it also allowed its user a degree of control over the device’s audio output.

The original owner of this radiogram was the architect Sir James Stirling, who purchased it in 1966-67 from Aram Designs Ltd., a significant and early London retailer of modern design.

Physical description

The main body and speakers of this radiogram are made from plywood, laminated with a thin white plastic. The body is an elongated cuboid, its controls are arranged on the front to resemble a humanoid face: its ‘eyes’ are the AM and FM dials, the ‘eyebrows’ are represented by the tuning scales. The object’s ‘teeth’ are a row of push-button controls. On top of the unit, located toward the proper left end, is the Garrard turntable, with a removable clear polycarbonate cover. Underneath the unit is a painted wooden flex winder for the electrical cable.

The speakers can attach to the sides of the unit, long aluminium ‘hooks’ fitting into slots at either end of the main body. They are recessed underneath to accommodate the turntable. Their fronts are each decorated with a hexagonal pattern of thirty circular holes, over a black-painted grille. An aluminium bar crossing a half-spherical recess on top of each speaker serves as a handle. Each plugs into the back of the main unit.

The radiogram’s stand is of aluminium, the leading edges of which are unpainted, the rest is painted black. The unit is supported on four rubber castors (made by Shephard).

Place of Origin

Milan (manufactured)

Date

1966 (designed and made)

Artist/maker

Castiglioni, Achille, born 1918 - died 2002 (designer)
Castiglioni, Pier Giacomo, born 1913 - died 1968 (designers)
Brionvega (manufacturers)

Materials and Techniques

Plywood, laminated with plastic; polycarbonate; painted aluminium; electrical components; various metals

Dimensions

Height: 92 cm with speakers on top, Width: 62 cm with speakers on top, Depth: 35 cm, Width: 121 cm with speakers attached to sides

Object history note

This object was purchased brand new by the architect Sir James Stirling in 1966-67. He bought it at Aram Designs Ltd., a famous modern design shop on the King's Road, Chelsea, owned by the interior designer, Zeev Aram. It was kept in the Stirlings' Belsize Park home from its time of purchase until 2015, when it was bought by the V&A [2015/728].

Although this is an iconic 1960s object, Stirling was better-known as a collector of Regency period furniture. This object links a significant British architect and a significant (and early) British retailer of international modern design.

Historical context note

Brionvega produced many cutting-edge audio-visual products throughout the 1960s, often employing well-known industrial designers to create them. The company, originally named B.P.M., was founded in Milan in 1945 by Giuseppe Brion and Leone Pajetta. Renamed Brionvega in 1960, its association with leading designers began soon after, the ‘Doney’ portable television was produced in 1962 by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper. The RR126 radiophonograph (‘Radiofonografo’) was designed in 1965 by brothers Achille (1918 – 2002) and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (1913 – 1968). It was first manufactured the following year. The Castiglioni brothers’ philosophy was that design should restructure an object’s function, form and production process, starting always from scratch.

The RR126 was conceived as an anthropomorphic ‘musical pet’, with speakers for its ears and control dials for its face. It is raised on castors, so could be moved around easily, much in common with other informal 1960s designs. The system’s elements could be arranged in several different ways: speakers on top; speakers hooked to the sides; speakers separated from the main unit and placed elsewhere in a room. The ability of the RR126 to be rearranged at will provided a fashionable, witty, Pop-inspired piece of furniture, but it also allowed its user a degree of control over the device’s audio output. When the speakers were stacked on top, it meant that only the radio could be used and that stereophonic sound was less effective. When they were attached to the sides, the record player was then accessible, and the stereophonic output more obviously effective at greater distance from the unit. The final configuration placed the speakers away from the main body using cables attached to the speakers, to achieve optimal stereo sound quality. This attention to sound quality is characteristic of the period in which the RR126 was designed. In the mid-1960s, pop music pioneers such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys began to experiment seriously with complex layered song arrangements, which demanded playing on high-quality audio equipment to appreciate the complexity and richness of sound production.

The RR126 was available with several different coloured plastic laminate ‘skins’, including white, black, red, yellow and faux-woodgrain.

Descriptive line

RR126 radiogram; white plastic laminate, wood, aluminium; Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Brionvega; Italy, 1966

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Paola Antonelli and Steven Guarnaccia, Achille Castiglioni (Mantua, 2000)
Stephen Bayley, Philippe Garner and Deyan Sudik, Twentieth Century Style & Design (London, 1986)
p.278
Paolo Ferrari, Achille Castiglioni (Milan, 1984)
p.156-7
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Achille Castiglioni: Design! (New York, 1997)
Sergio Polano, Achille Castiglioni: complete works (Milan, 2002)
P.225
'Una personale di A. e. P.G. Castiglioni' in Domus, no.442, September 1966
p.31
Hawes, Robert, Radio Art (London, 1991)
p.124

Materials

Plywood; Aluminium; Plastic; Polycarbonate; Wood

Techniques

Laminating; Painting

Categories

Audio equipment; Furniture; Product design; Electrical appliances; Household objects; Plastic; Entertainment & Leisure

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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