Dezeen Magazine

Jean Nouvel designs wood-encased Philharmonia speakers for Amadeus

Speakers originally designed by architect Jean Nouvel for his controversial Philharmonie de Paris concert hall are being put into production by French audio brand Amadeus.

The Philharmonia speakers were first created for the recording and mastering studios at the Philharmonia de Paris concert hall, which was also designed by Nouvel, and boycotted by the architect on its opening night after he claimed it was "not finished".

Amadeus 'Philharmonia' Speakers Co-designed by Jean Nouvel

They mark the Pritzker Prize-winning architect's first venture into the world of audio equipment. His previous product designs include leather and rubber boots, and stacking metal chairs.

Nouvel worked with Amadeus engineer and co-founder Michael Deluc to design the 1.6-metre-tall speakers, which feature a wood-encased top half constructed from 547 machined pieces of birch veneer.

Amadeus 'Philharmonia' Speakers Co-designed by Jean Nouvel

The speakers have an internal structure that draws on aircraft manufacturing processes, particularly wing design. The back of each device curves into a point that is shaped like the prow of a ship.

"The distinctive construction technique of Philharmonia helps neutralise standing waves affecting sonic clarity and low-frequency definition, through an extremely complex internal structure using a combination of interlocking panels arranged in two perpendicular planes, each hosting several tuned notch resonators," said Deluc.

Amadeus 'Philharmonia' Speakers Co-designed by Jean Nouvel

Amadeus co-founder Bernard Byk originally trained as an architect, and said the philosophy of the company was about matching sound with space.

"Imagine a reference sound system with exceptional design, ergonomics and acoustics, as a kind of consecration," said Byk. "Jean Nouvel's imagination, exuberance and creative genius, combined with Michel Deluc's engineering, brought a brilliant solution to life."

Amadeus 'Philharmonia' Speakers Co-designed by Jean Nouvel

The 2,400 seat Philharmonie de Paris concert hall opened in January, three years after its original completion date. Nouvel won the job to design it in a 2007 competition with a scheme expected to cost €200 million, but the price had almost doubled by 2015.

"In no case was I at the origin of any cost overrun on this project," said Nouvel, before filing a court order to distance himself from the building, which he said had strayed from his design.

The centrepiece of the building is the concert hall itself, which features wooden cladding and curving acoustic panels suspended from the ceiling.

Jean Nouvel's Philharmonie de Paris
The Philharmonie de Paris concert hall by Jean Nouvel

Industrial designer Ross Lovegrove has also branched out into speaker design, launching a miniature version of his imposing two-metre-tall KEF speaker at London Design Festival 2015.

More unusual audio devices covered by Dezeen include Mathieu Lehanneur's 20-sided Boom Boom speaker, and Japanese studio Nendo's flat speaker made from decorated ceramic.