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Surround Sound

Now known mainly for electric shavers, alarm clocks and coffee makers, the Braun company made its name as a manufacturer of radios and a pioneer in plastics. The firm, founded in 1921, embodied German design principles that seamlessly meshed form with function. Through the 1980s, its instantly recognizable “raised-A” logo (still in use today) appeared on a range of high-end hi-fi equipment, such as the iconic SK4 record player dubbed “Snow White’s Coffin,” designed by Dieter Rams.

As early as 1935, the firm hit on the idea of combining a radio set with a phonograph player for maximal audio gratification. Twenty years later, designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld created this version of the concept, the portable “Combi” radio-phono set, which is now one of the rarest and most collectible Braun items. The example shown here was offered on June 28 at the Quittenbaum auction house in Munich, where it sold for €4,500. The vanilla yellow, mustard yellow and olive green of its plastic body shell are nicely set off by the bright red of the buttons, dials and phono arm.

Wagenfeld was a Bauhaus alumnus who went on to success as a commercial designer—which earned him plenty of money and scathing criticism from purists like Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. While at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Wagenfeld co-designed the famous “Wa24” lamp, and in the 1930s, post-Bauhaus, created the “Kubus” glass containers and the “Max & Moritz” salt and pepper shakers. In the 1950s, when he designed the “Combi” for Braun, he had his own design office in Stuttgart, West Germany. —John Dorfman

Author: Art & Antiques Magazine | Publish Date: September 2011

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