“To hear a sound is to see its space,” Louis Kahn wrote in the mid-60s. Now, in collaboration with the audio company Master & Dynamic, Sir David Adjaye is making sure you take a good look at that sound, too.
Last month at a fete at the MoMA Design Store in New York, the recently-knighted architect unveiled the MA770, a sculptural wireless speaker made from a specially-developed concrete.
At the launch party, Master & Dynamic CEO Jonathan Levine jokingly introduced Adjaye as the architect in charge of “a sleepy up-and-coming firm from London.” Until this collaboration, the audio purveyor—known for its high-end headphones and earbuds—had never designed a standalone speaker. Levine reached out directly to Adjaye with the idea of a partnership. It so happened that the architect had recently read about the company in a magazine. “It was one of those serendipitous things,” Adjaye told RECORD in an email.
Though Adjaye has designed everything ranging from a doorknob to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a speaker was an entirely new pursuit. “I have always been very interested in how design can mediate the relationship between space and sound, but this was an entirely different approach,” he said. “It was important to me that this not merely be an aesthetic object, but that it really performed.”
One the largest challenges, according to the architect, was that unlike buildings, a speaker has no fixed context. Adjaye started with the idea of traditional box-shaped speaker to arrive at the final sweeping triangular form.
To achieve optimum sonic performance, Adjaye worked with Master & Dynamic specialists to devise a proprietary concrete for the speaker—a material that is not only architectural, but has acoustic qualities superior to those of plastic or wood. At 35 pounds, the speaker is hefty, but a delicate steel grill, fixed to the face with magnets, gives it Adjaye’s signature elegance.
Adjaye points out that because of the concrete’s dampening qualities, the speaker—with a pair of 4-inch Kevlar woofers and a single 1.5-inch titanium tweeter—can be turned up full blast alongside a turntable and not cause the vinyl to skip. “It’s incredible,” he said.
He should know: Last summer, Adjaye released a vinyl record with his brother Peter, a composer, inspired by his buildings. And in the 90s, the architect himself dabbled as a DJ.
So what will be on heavy rotation on Adjaye’s MA770? “Nina Simone never gets old!” he said.
The MA770 is available for $1,800 at the MoMA Design Store and for pre-order at masterdynamic.com.
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