Three years ago, Bang & Olufsen approached Copenhagen-based interior design duo GamFratesi with the idea of creating a landmark portable speaker with a one-of-a-kind design. Known for their minimalistic interior design style infused with classic cultural influences, Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi got to work.
“We always consider simplicity, functionality and the DNA of a company when we design,” GamFratesi say. “For this project, our mission was to respect tradition while still innovating in small steps to bring a new language to something familiar.” The culmination of their work lies in Bang & Olufsen’s most powerful portable speaker to date—the Beosound A5.
The Beosound A5 is an object that looks familiar and novel at once. The shape of the speaker is reminiscent of a vintage radio, thanks to its solid handle and a relatively oversized body when compared to the portable speakers we are now used to.
Despite the classic reference, the design feels fresh and modern due to soft organic curves and the range of natural materials it is crafted from. Weaving together bent solid wood, raffia and wood veneer, GamFratesi interlace Scandinavian elements with a contemporary twist to set the Beosound A5 apart and bring it to life.
Here, the architects reveal their experimental approach to the Beosound A5, how they explore the intersection of nature and technology, and what designing for longevity really means.
What was your inspiration behind the design of the new Beosound A5?
Our inspiration for the Beosound A5 came from many places, including the iconic Beolit series from Bang & Olufsen as well as the natural materials that evoke colours and textures found in Scandinavia. From the traditional Panama straw hats worn on beaches to the hand-woven leather accents of Danish chairs from the ’60s, imagery of natural materials applied in experimental ways guided our design journey.
We decided to create two different finishes—both rooted in a Scandinavian aesthetic, but each with a distinct design signature of its own. Beosound A5 in Nordic Weave incorporates Bang & Olufsen’s signature material of aluminium with a woven-paper fibre front and light oak handle, painting a picture of laidback Scandinavian summers spent at the beach. Meanwhile, Dark Oak incorporates black anthracite aluminium paired with dark wood, creating a completely different mood and conjuring winter woodlands. Both finishes can sit beautifully inside a home, or outside in nature.
Tell us more about how the Beosound A5 marries your design philosophy with Bang & Olufsen’s brand identity.
We keep with a Scandinavian approach to craftsmanship, with a strong emphasis on simplicity and functionality. We also like to capture a strong emotional spirit and story through our concepts, which are reflected in the chosen materials for and the shape of the Beosound A5. We were delighted to work with a company like Bang & Olufsen as they share our values towards timeless design. For the Beosound A5, we took aesthetic inspiration from Bang & Olufsen’s Beolit series and the brand’s signature materials, such as aluminium. The organic curves and natural materials used in the new speaker reference the curved edges and teak finishes seen in early Beolit models.
Were there any challenges you faced while designing the Beosound A5?
Using natural materials for a consumer product is always complex. Natural materials are inherently imperfect, so integrating them into a technological product seems like a contradiction. It took a long process of trial and error for us to come to solid wood,
raffia and wood veneer as materials of choice—but it was an amazing final result.
What materials are you typically drawn to in your work?
We enjoy using a variety of materials to make our work interesting and dynamic. Enrico is personally fond of upholstered furniture and softness. Stine loves wood and being very close to nature.
How do the two of you work together on a day-to-day basis?
We are two very different people but act in unity. We work closely together through all the different stages of the creative development process. We share many of the same competencies and interests, and appreciate working in tight collaboration. It is a rather symbiotic process, where we are both so involved that it is often impossible to distinguish who started and finished a design. The Beosound A5 itself is an honest fusion of two cultures and work processes. Our Danish and Italian approaches spontaneously take shape alongside our two personalities—merging to create a unique synergy.