A Beautiful Bare-Bones Radio, Designed by an Architect Who Strove for Simplicity
In 1938, Italian architect Franco Albini received a traditional wood-encased radio as a wedding gift—and proceeded to take it apart. He stripped down what he saw as a clumsy, cumbersome device, then reassembled it to showcase only the essential electric parts, which he suspended between two sheets of glass to create a sense of lightness and simplicity—both hallmarks of the late architect’s neorationalist design approach. The resulting object, called Radio in Cristallo, was unveiled two years later at Wohnbedarf’s modern furniture competition in Zurich, but was never put into production—until now.
In close collaboration with the Fondazione Franco Albini, the Italian furniture maker Cassina has manufactured Albini’s radio in the exact proportions as the original. The technology has been updated to include an FM radio; DAB (digital audio broadcasting) radio, which uses higher frequencies and can capture more stations; and Bluetooth pairing functions that can be adjusted using the four knobs on the front. A single speaker, by the distinguished Italian company B&C, generates consistently smooth, rich sound. There’s also a limited-edition run—of just five pieces—called the Radio in Cristallo L.E., which features white stainless-steel knobs and a hand-welded circuit board.
Both iterations are as much sculptures as they are audio devices. “My father used to say, ‘Air and light are construction materials,’” says Albini’s son, Marco, in a video about the project. “The radio represents the search for the essence of a product, [which] means eliminating rather than adding, and pursuing lightness for its content as an aesthetic value.” To get the most out of the apparatus, try pairing it with the optional subwoofer, which transmits low frequencies that create an enhanced, more immersive listening experience.