Brutalist speaker concept is inspired by an equally brutalist church building

Regardless of religious inclination or lack thereof, the word “church” would often conjure up images of lofty buildings designed to inspire awe or command respect. Of course, church architecture often reflects the trends and styles of their times, and there are indeed churches today that wouldn’t look out of place beside commercial buildings and structures. Of these, the former Church of Saint Agnes in Berlin, now home to the Konig gallery, is perhaps one of the most striking examples of the modern brutalist movement applied to such a structure, and its imposing character happens to be the almost literal inspiration for a desk speaker concept that similarly embraces that spirit of extreme austerity in a beautiful and memorable way.

Designer: Philipp Emrich

Designed by architect Werner Duttmann and finished in 1967, the former Church of St. Agnes, now the Gallery of Konig, stands almost in opposition to common church architectures of that period and the ages before it. Its unadorned, boxy shapes don’t stand out among the rows of concrete buildings that line up most cities, making it feel like just another part of the community. At the same time, however, its austere appearance still cuts an imposing figure that gives the impression of something that is meant to exist on a completely different and higher level.

It’s that same stunning characteristic that the Agnes desk speaker concept tries to convey on a smaller scale. Like the church it takes both its shape and name from, the design is made from two plain rectangular pieces, though the roles are switched. The vertical “bell tower” is actually the main speaker, with the top box providing 360-degree output, while the larger detachable box provides bass on demand.

Like any brutalist design, the speakers express rawness, expressed through metal instead of concrete and accentuated by the use of the simplest geometrical shape and sharp edges. In terms of functionality, however, there is nothing unrefined about the Agnes speaker concept, and it even imagines a feature not found in any 360-degree speaker today. While the lower knob controls the speaker volume, the one above it determines where sound is directed, whether it’s only from the front, from the front and the sides, or from all four sides.

Smart speakers today are trying their best to blend into their surroundings, namely your interior decor, and just like its inspiration, the Agnes desk speaker concept presents a duality in that regard. It definitely mixes well with minimalist designs, but its raw appearance and imposing stature also make it stand out easily, turning what would normally be just a functional appliance into a unique work of art that looks almost out of place and out of time.