Design made for space
Space Age aesthetics and the rr126 Radiofonografo
Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
David Bowie 1969
At a time when the Russian and US space programmes still had millions of kids around the world gaping in awe at the sky, an aesthetic movement called the Space Age sought to identify and encapsulate the spatial and cosmic desires that mankind had developed in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The Space Age officially began on 4 October 1957 when the USSR launched the Sputnik satellite. Shortly afterwards, with the explosion of the 1960s, space fever made its entrance into the world of design and interior design: 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, invaded first the dreams of designers and then shops all over the world.
Coloured plastics and reflective metals dominated the scene for a decade, giving designs a futuristic flair.
Shapes also played a key role in generating an elegant, futuristic atmosphere. One striking example was the way the Space Age trend treated the corners of furniture, which were gradually softened with soft, sinuous and irresistible lines. Good examples are the egg-shaped Ball Chair and the numerous mushroom lamps of the period.
The rr126 Radiofonografo
In 1965, at the height of the Space Age trend, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni designed an object for Brionvega, an icon of 20th century design whose fame and mythical status remains intact to this day: the rr126 radiofonografo. The personalism of technology, now an intimate part of people’s lives, was already part of the Castiglioni concept of a technology and an object that would keep people company, that they could relate to, that they could look in the face only to feel the strange distancing effect of seeing their reflection in the smiling face of a robot.
Its rounded corners, its characteristic perforated cubes softened of their rough edges, saw this piece take its rightful place in the pantheon of the Space Age while at the same time transcending it.
It could be said that the radiofonografo stands at the aesthetic edge of the Space Age movement and is also its final testament.
The spatial and cosmic air of the radiofonografo did not escape one particular space fan. David Bowie was an admirer and proud owner of a Brionvega radiofonografo, which he appreciated both for its aesthetic qualities as an exclusive piece of furniture and for the quality of the music it reproduced.
The same man who, with Space Oddity in 1968, would take everyone into space a few years later.
The similarities between the British singer and the iconic Castiglioni sound design are many and not just circumstantial. The mysterious charm of the rock star with different coloured eyes, serious of character yet capable of moments of light-heartedness, the futuristic aesthetic, the constant reassembling of internal stylistic elements, the intense relationship that the musician always formed with his fans: close but unreachable, intimate but detached, all of these characteristics can be found in the Castiglioni brothers’ masterpiece. A truly mysterious object that asks us to discover it, to enter into a relationship with it, alien, but which speaks to us of something we know well, which is familiar to us despite its strangeness. An object that is also changeable, modular and continuously reconfigurable to meet the user’s listening needs.
It is said that the right knob of Bowie’s radiofonografo was dyed black to reflect the heterochromia of the English singer-songwriter, who famously had one brown eye and one light blue eye, as if to underline the two souls, the internal conflict of his two natures, that characterised his artistic genius.
The rr126 radiofonografo designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and owned by David Bowie was auctioned on 11 November 2016 for the incredible sum of £257,000.
A Design beyond Space and Time
For the contemporary public the radiofonografo is a piece to be discovered and rediscovered: inexhaustible in its ability to grab the attention, it remains a mysterious and photographically irrepressible object. In fact, it is a mobile design that cannot be fully captured by the photographic icon that represents it: alive and ever-changing, it still succeeds in stimulating and inspiring the thousands of people who own it or simply know and admire it.
For all of them, we have decided to re-release this legendary object.
Assembled from the highest quality materials and components, updated with the latest technology and completely Made in Italy.
In white, red, orange and a limited edition version in Canaletto walnut.
The re-edition of the rr126 radiofonografo is our tribute to the world’s most famous sound design.
The characteristic smiling robot face, consisting of buttons and potentiometers, embodies what the radiofonografo represents for the public of today: a glimpse of the future, seen from the past.