Virgil Abloh x Braun

Virgil Abloh x Braun

A present day icon.

Technology has made some major advancements since the iconic Braun wall unit [Wandanlage] began development in 1961. And now, 60 years later, Virgil Abloh has reimagined it for 2021. The one-of-a-kind project coincides with the braun’s 100th anniversary celebrations. Virgil carefully analysed every detail of the original blueprints and used his personal influences to build a piece of “functional art” that aligns with the Dieter Rams’ intrinsic Braun idea of good design being built to last.

A remix track by Virgil Abloh is also available on his Soundcloud to bring the Braun ethos of good design to life: “It’s timeless and meant to be appreciated and enjoyed over time.”

The metallic finish of the 2021 version is a visual manifestation of the parallels between Braun’s polished chrome design aesthetic – such as the 1960 SM3 shaver and 1961 T1 toaster – and the high shine of Virgil Abloh’s cultural and musical references of the past 100 years.  These range from the brass and silver instruments of Mamie Smith’s 1930s blues band to the customized polished ‘slabs’ on cars made famous by hip hop stars in the 1980s.

By taking a ‘less but better’ approach to the design process, Virgil Abloh and Braun ensure that the original hifi audio remains the hero of the collaboration – and the technology still functions today as it did back in 1965. The result is a custom-built ‘functional art’ piece where design bridges the gap between form and function, with materials that ensure it lasts for the next 100 years.

Behind the scenes.

Virgil Abloh says of the partnership:

“I have always had a deep appreciation for Braun design.  For the brand’s 100 years, I jumped at the opportunity to reimagine this iconic Braun product and challenge what we have come to expect from design.  The “functional art” piece co-curated with Braun Design not only highlights the original function of the hifi wall unit that was the best audio of its time, but also the quality and durable materials that are built to last.  As a creator, I continue to question how art is perceived in today’s culture. ‘Functional art’ is a lasting legacy of the enduring power of good design that is simple, useful and built to last.  In so doing, it advances the frames of design references beyond design ‘purists’ to broader audiences.”

Braun Wandanlage dark background
The original model from 1961.

With the collaboration comes a short film following Virgil at Farnsworth House – designed and constructed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – as he explains his design process behind the reimagined Wandanlage.  In a nod to his practice as a DJ, Virgil has also curated a bespoke remix composition titled ‘Internationalism’ so design ‘purists’ and broader audiences can experience the musical inspiration behind the collaboration.

The Wandanlage Reimagined: Virgil Abloh x Braun

Virgil says about the song:

The track was conceived in collaboration with The Chopstars, the epochal Houston sound designers; the net result being chopped and screwed jazz classics. The track itself is an audio expression of the thesis in which parallels can be drawn in reference to The Chopstar process, as it relates to the development of our collaboration’s ‘functional art.’ The hallmark of the work is rooting the industrial design and existence of the Canon to embody Black culture in a specific way that Houston brand of music specifically achieves – the Chopped not Slopped sonic texture picks up where design leaves off.”

The eclectic track embodies a ‘genre-less’ approach to music, something that Virgil has spoken about before in reference to his musical taste, commenting:

Eclectic, genre-less, longevity, connection, using sound to paint pictures. I always have music on in the background of everything I do. My musical tastes know no boundaries; they don’t fit within a box or a category, very much so in the same way that I or my work don’t just sit in one space. ‘Internationalism’ is a diverse and varied track, yet cohesive in its sentiment. To me, this track exemplifies the Braun ethos of good design – it’s timeless and meant to be appreciated and enjoyed over time.”

Portrait of an artist.

Chicago architect, designer, musician and philanthropist Virgil Abloh has a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology under a curriculum devised by Mies van der Rohe, one of the most remarkable architectures of the 20th century. Virgil went on to combine the disciplines of art, craft and design with contemporary culture, which continues to be a distinguishing quality in his work today. He currently serves as Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton Men’s Wear and CEO of his Milan-based fashion label Off-White.

Virgil Abloh portrait