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THE ICON | The Brionvega Radiofonografo

Italy came into its own in the post-war period – showing the rest of the world what great designers could achieve across a number of industries, including automobiles and electronics. 

As with the Fiat 500 that was released in the 1950s, the Brionvega Radiofonografo, designed by brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and released in 1965, is truly iconic. This design, known as the RR226, was rereleased in a range of colours, white, orange, red and blue, together with ‘noce’, Italian for walnut (and replaced with cherry wood). Produced by Brionvega and retailed by Living Edge in Australia, it’s as popular today as it when it first hit the market. “It’s a classic from the 1960s and hits the spot with a new generation attracted to post-war architecture as much as design,” Living Edge retail consultant Nick Zaccardi says.

Brionvega, established immediately after the Second World War to produce electronics, worked with key designers such as Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper to create nifty radios and stereo systems a decade later. Unlike the more conventional record players that are generally static, the Radiofonografo can easily ‘morph’ into a more compact shape. The speakers on each side can be easily removed and easily slide across the record player on top.

The system’s recent release also includes an upgrade in technology with Bluetooth, allowing for streaming. But the latest incarnation also captures the animal-like features of the original design, often referred to as a ‘musical pet’ due to the ear-like speakers on either side and the silver nobs set below eyebrow-like dials. Zaccardi recently sold a cherry wood unit to a client who was keen to have this in his ‘man cave’. “He saw it as a collectable object as much as a functional system that produced great sound,” Nick says. 

Brionvega also made its presence felt at last year’s Milan furniture fair, displaying its Radiofonografo, in a vibrant cobalt blue – representing
beauty, elegance and exclusivity in fashion since Medieval times. “It was also a tribute to the great designs from the Castiglioni brothers who have made an indelible mark on the design scene, both then, and now,” Nick says.

Those old enough will recall the many clunky record players produced after the war, extremely bulky by today’s standards. Designed as fixed pieces of furniture, usually in timber, they remained in one spot and armchairs had to pulled closer to hear the sound. In the case of the Radiofonografo, the design comes with wheels that allows the unit to find its place anywhere in a home – be it a living room, a rumpus room or a studio/workspace. It was a breath of fresh air in terms of colour and form, and importantly, offered flexibility.
 
With the return of the record by a new generation, the return of a new and improved Radiofongrafo, is certainly well timed.

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