Brionvega 1963/2023 Sixty years of future
The Brionvega brand and its products: the origins
Vega is the brightest star in the Lyra constellation, the fifth brightest in the night sky, and the second brightest in the northern celestial hemisphere.
Founded in Milan in 1945 under the name BP Radio S.r.l., the company assumed its definitive form and name in 1960 when engineer Pajetta left the company. Entirely under the control of the Brion’s from then on, the company entered the world of industrial design and took on the new name Brion Vega Radio Televisione S.a.s. Thus was born the Brionvega brand and company, one of the brightest stars in the constellation of Italian design.
The Brionvega philosophy immediately led the Brion brand to develop a very personal view of material culture. The production of consumer objects, the multiplication of products, is always counterbalanced by a particular spiritual vocation that is reflected in the decision to create objects that are not just objects but means of communication, tools, not only purely products. Tools, therefore, that can be used to do many different things, that reflect the aspirations, dreams, desires and convictions of their users: neutral and apolitical, therefore, yet aesthetically unforgettable and unmistakable.
Design from Vega
In the early 1960s, the newly-founded Brionvega entrusted the revitalisation of the brand’s interior design principles to the architect duo Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper. The two designed a series of famous objects for Brionvega and helped give Brion an internal dynamism that would shape its path for years to come.
It is no coincidence that Zanuso, Sapper and Ennio Brion visited NASA in the 1960s. The experience must have been inspirational for the design creativity and enterprise of the three men.
In fact, in the 1960s Brionvega designed a number of pieces that rightfully took their place alongside other classics of the Space Age.
The space age aesthetic was characterised by futuristic and avant-garde objects with a clear utopian reference to a world in which travelling and living in space was part of everyday life.
Coloured plastics and reflective metals dominated the scene for a decade, giving designs a futuristic flair.
Dating to the same period is the construction of the factory in Asolo, Treviso, designed by Marco Zanuso himself, which has become one of the symbols of Industria Felix: bright, open and in the purest spirit of Adriano Olivetti. The factory in Asolo was soon populated by workers with exceptional industrial and artisan expertise, just when companies in the electronics sector were investing in machinery and automation to increase their competitiveness. BRIONVEGA decided to put its eggs in a different basket: it invested in complex products, genuine artistic objects such as the radiofonografo and the Totem, and gambled on manufacturing excellence, training workers and craftsmen to produce these highly sophisticated and unique objects.
Brionvega and its designers learned how to write the future through the lines of objects like the Castiglioni brothers’ radiofonografo, Zanuso/Sapper’s Radiocubo and Bellini’s Totem.
Design in motion
After futurability, movement is another distinctive feature of Brionvega products. A trait shared by the designers, the people who work there and the company as a whole. Movement in the space of design objects and portability are two characteristics that underline the dynamism the brand has always pursued. An object that follows you in your domestic space, such as the Radiocubo, or Algol, the television with a handle, just like the aforementioned Radiofonografo and Totem are objects that must have great personality and move themselves, internally, to sense the user’s needs at that precise moment. It is an object that follows you, that keeps you company.
The importance of design in changing our perception of everyday life was well expressed, in those early years of Brionvega, by Gillo Dorfles in his book Introduzione al disegno industriale.
The famous art critic writes: “We are enveloped, at every moment of our working day or leisure time, by a tidal wave of industrial mass-produced products with more or less obvious aesthetic intentions: from the watch we wear on our wrist to the biro […] products at the basis of which there is always a design moment […]. It is therefore no surprise that our present-day visual horizon is so strongly influenced by the presence of this vast quantity of elements […] it is to these very elements that we owe the particular direction that our taste and attitude towards form may take.”
Playing with the forms of the future was for Brionvega’s architects and designers a way of playing with the aesthetic taste of users: anticipating it, preconceiving it. Giving them a glimpse of what the home and work environment of the future would look like and thus giving birth to the self-fulfilling prophecy of a design in constant motion that oscillates between what we understand and like and what we do not yet fully understand, but which speaks to us, intrigues us, attracts us and shapes our aesthetic taste.
The objects we surround ourselves with shape our world, they become our world.
They change the way we look, feel, act.
Brionvega immediately embraced this fundamental intuition; an intuition, a compass that would see the brand win the Compasso d’Oro award.
The Compasso d’oro
The Compasso d’Oro Award is an important prize awarded each year by the Associazione per il disegno industriale. Established in 1954 on the basis of an idea by Gio Ponti, it was created with the aim of rewarding and enhancing the quality of Italian design. The Compasso d’Oro is the oldest and most prestigious industrial design award in the world and winning it, for a designer, means rightfully entering the pantheon of classic design.
Brionvega won it in 1962, with the Doney 14″ television designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper: the first portable transistor television produced in Europe.
Brionvega would later win a second Compasso d’Oro in 1970 for production, for the following reasons:
“The 1970 Compasso d’Oro award is presented to Brionvega for the high quality of the majority of its products and for its use of the work of the best Italian designers, in many cases achieving results of considerable cultural value in terms of international design”
Since then, Brionvega designs have been exhibited in museums all over the world, from MoMA to the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art and the Milan Triennale. Classic pieces such as Zanuso and Sapper’s Radiocubo and Algol, the Castiglioni brothers’ Radiofonografo and Bellini’s Totem are displayed alongside the great works of art of the past as shining examples of human progress and ingenuity.
Over the course of 60 years in Italian design, Brionvega has worked with the most famous and innovative designers on the contemporary scene, producing timeless iconic objects that have furnished the history of the 20th century.
Over the last 20 years, our group has dedicated itself to rebuilding the foundations and structure of this legendary company: small in the world of consumer electronics but extraordinarily important for the development and spread of a MADE IN ITALY brand that is not just form but the very lifeblood of Italian design.
The technical study and design process, the research and the training of skilled craftsmen, the marketing structure and all our other departments are made up of people united by a very strong passion for these extraordinary objects.
Our group was founded with the aim of giving new life and dignity to a number of iconic pieces of Italian design. Hidden gems, works that have been forgotten over the years, of which there is a contemporary nostalgia for and which the world deserves to know about.
We chose the most complex and complicated products not only from BRIONVEGA but probably of the entire Italian panorama of that glorious period. A historic time during which the Bel Paese “dominated this world because of its extraordinary mix of skilled craftsmen and great patrons of industry”
Around this mission we have created a company to manage the heritage, the legacy, but above all the future developments of the Brionvega brand.
The classic Radiofonografo by the Castiglioni brothers: a work of art that conceals a secret within… A secret hidden in the movement of its volumes, in the various and subsequent modular configurations that the two monitors can take on, in the push-button panel, in the spatial and familiar line that make it an ever-contemporary piece of design: an object that after more than 50 years continues to arouse admiration and curiosity in all lovers of great design and all forms of arts. A playful and complicit concept design that inspires a performance and a playful approach to the object, making it possible to establish an intimate relationship with this classic piece.
Zanuso and Sapper’s ts502 Radiocubo, the iconic Brionvega pop radio.
Quickly becoming a cult object, it encapsulated all the desire for rebellion, novelty and colour that developed during the 1960s. Much loved by creatives of the calibre of David Bowie, it is now exhibited at Moma in New York and the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, among others.
Bellini’s Totem: Designed in 1971, Totem is a celebration of the primary and elementary forms that make up and regulate our physical world. An ode to geometric regularity that comes at the end of a long meditation on form and function.
A simple white cuboid that opens up and is reconfigured in a sophisticated Hi-Fi listening machine with two speakers that open to reveal the stereo module, radio and turntable.
And so, after sixty years, Brionvega continues to sparkle and shine high in the sky of Italian design, just like the bright star from which it takes its name.