23 September 2010

Marx's "Radio of the Future" circa 1942

An ad by Admiral from 1942 featured the futuristic moderne styled "radio" as proposed by Marx. The image at the bottom left shows the unit when closed and not in use, while the central image offers a vision of a multimedia future with radio, television and turntable all in one unit.

Advertisement for a "Radio of the Future" designed by Samuel Marx.
The streamlined design with emphatic horizontals, rounded edges and clear lucite supports must have seemed an unreal vision to many Americans in those difficult days of World War II. As far as I know, the design never went beyond this concept drawing.

It's interesting that Marx is depicted hard at work at a drafting table with two titles: "Industrial Designer" and "Architect". The position of the designer in society was still in flux at the time and the concept of an industrial designer still relatively new. What sort of background should an industrial designer have?

Zenith's Bakelight "Radio Nurse" of 1937 designed by Isamu Noguchi must have set a precedent that Admiral would have liked to follow. Noguchi's design was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in the "design" category, but such work would not be viewed as being considered in a category on a level with "art" for many years to come.

Images from advertisements and publications of Noguchi's Radio Nurse of 1937.
Even Samuel Marx the painter and artist likely wouldn't have considered his design work on a par with art. Should he have thought about his design work differently?

Watercolor by Samuel Marx from Morocco.
• • • • •

I'll be giving a talk on the Morton May House in Saint Louis designed by Samuel Marx this Sunday  26 September 2010 at 3pm. The slide talk will be held at Landmarks Association of Saint Louis.

My talk is part of a series on mid-century modern architecture being held this fall. Reservations are required as the talks are quite popular and only 50 people can be accommodated.

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