THE SIGHT OF SOUND
In a Home & Decor exclusive with Michael Anastassiades, the London-based designer talks about his latest collaboration with Danish luxury audio-visual brand Bang & Olufsen, and the Beosound Edge.
London-based designer Michael Anastassiades collaborates with Danish luxury audio-visual brand Bang & Olufsen on the Beosound Edge.
As an established lighting designer who only recently started dabbling in furniture design, Michael Anastassiades was blind to the industry of audio-product designs prior to the Beosound Edge. “Every invitation from companies to work in a new field is a challenge, especially when I come from a completely different background. I’m very grateful that I got this invitation from Bang & Olufsen (B&O), because it’s not easy for a company to trust someone who doesn’t have experience in a certain field. I particularly enjoy working with companies with a long history, as I can study their legacy. I also analyse those products that have become iconic and that people remember the company for, and B&O has quite a few of them throughout history,” says Michael.
Are you an audiophile?
Absolutely, I love music. However, I did a hearing test about a month ago and it confirmed that I have a hearing loss of about 30 per cent in both ears. I hear less than the average person and it’s interesting because the doctors believe this is congenital. I feel that this condition has made me more sensitive to sound and it makes me appreciate it better.
Tell us more about the design concept of the Beosound Edge.
It was conceived as a product that is simple in language and form. I wanted it to be timeless – with just the bare minimum. If you look in my home, I always hide my electronic products in the cupboard, as I don’t want technology to take over. At least, this has been the story until now. This was a very good
starting point for me, and served as a challenge for me to create a design that I could leave outside the cupboard.
The intention was to create a very mysterious object – one that is so abstract that it doesn’t scream, “I am a speaker!” Not that I consider it a failure if it is identified as a speaker, but I think it is nice to create “magical” objects whose functions are not so immediately apparent. The materials used are also very much related to B&O’s identity. I used the aluminium that many beautiful and iconic B&O products are made of. The choice of black and aluminium was a conscious decision right from the beginning.
What makes it stand out?
I designed this with the intention to create anxiety over its stability. I like that moment of negotiation. It’s about capturing that moment of stillness and balance.
What were some challenges you faced when creating the Beosound Edge?
The biggest challenge was in achieving the rolling motion that’s in line with the product’s function – volume control. That was the most interesting part which had been the make-orbreak point of the project. It was very critical because it is about finding the right balance. This feature also adds sophistication and I think it has been a great achievement. How this was engineered is an incredible achievement on B&O’s front.
From the perspective of a lighting designer, how do you approach the design of audio products?
I think there is a parallel between audio and lighting. Unlike furniture, lamps live 80 per cent of their lives switched off. When switched on, it is a very different scenario for the object, because it comes alive and has a different quality and relationship with the surroundings. Likewise for speakers, when switched on, something almost magical happens, resulting in a total different perception of the product.
Do you own any B&O products?
Yes – a TV, which I bought even before I met B&O. I bought it in 2012 when the Olympic Games were held in London. My brother and his kids came to visit and I was not able to get any tickets to the event, so I promised them that I’d buy a great TV so we could watch the Games together. When I saw the product in the B&O store, I knew it was the only TV I could live with, as I didn’t like electronic objects in my house to be starkly visible. What’s different is the informality of the design. It sits on the floor and leans at an angle. It’s huge, yet many guests have asked me: “Why don’t you have a television?” They don’t realise it is there and that’s great!
What is your takeaway from this project?
I started strictly with lighting design and that was my only experiment until a few years ago, when I was invited to do other products like furniture. Moving into audio, it has been a completely new challenge, so it’s like achieving another area of expertise and reaching greater heights. It has been very rewarding.
How have audio products evolved over the years? Sound has always been a part of entertainment for many years, and its quality has become better with time. The big change now is with connected audio, where you live with sound in a different way. The ideal way to live with music is to set the scene and atmosphere in your home and be able to listen to music even when walking around. The solution for that is connected audio. It is also made more convenient now, as you can stream from your smart devices. It is a great transition – moving from static and cabled options to something that is so dynamic.
With the advancement of technology moving so quickly, is it a constant challenge for B&O?
Yes, our products are generally bigger investments and people expect them to live for a long time. We always try to design them in a way where they are not just electronic products, but also beautiful items in their own right. We retain the quality by offering software updates to ensure that products remain relevant. Even though a platform may not develop any further at some point, it’s still as good as when it was bought. It may not have the latest features but it still works as a great music provider.
Has the idea of making products look futuristic and unlike conventional audio products always been B&O’s design direction? Yes, I think what is important for us is not just to showcase technology. It’s more about creating items that look beautiful in your home. We like to create mystery and excitement without necessarily displaying technology. For example, the Beosound Edge welcomes you by lighting up when you approach it and this makes it more personable.
What is one of the constant challenges when launching products?
It’s always about economy, aesthetics and product performance. It’s also about creating harmony between designers, audio engineers and many other teams working on the project, and this can get extremely difficult.
“We always try to design them in a way where they are not just electronic products, but also beautiful items in their own right.”
A combination of spring forces and dampeners keep the speaker wellcalibrated, regardless of placement. Initially designed as a speaker that sits on the floor, Beosound Edge soon found its place on the wall as a gravitydefying statement piece.
BELOWBang & Olufsen’s headquarters in Struer, Denmark.RIGHT, TOP & MIDDLEA peek into the production cycle of Beosound Edge at B&O factory.RIGHT, BOTTOM B&O factory houses an acoustically treated lab where all audio products are tested.