ECKO AD-65 Radio
A magnificent and superb condition EKCO AD-65 radio with Bakelite case, designed by celebrated architect Wells Coates in 1932, and manufactured by E.K.Cole Ltd. from 1934.
The circular case sits on two incorporated feet that run the depth of the radio. The front has a raised rim forming a circular frame for a cut-away central section. This contains the circular speaker, which is concealed behind a woven fabric screen. Below the speaker are three circular tuning knobs. Another semi-circular section is cut out of the upper half of the case, revealing long-wave and medium-wave tuning dials for the wireless behind it. This is a very rare radio, an important example of 1930s modernism, and it is extremely hard to find one in such wonderful condition. A similar model is owned by the V&A, London.
Looking like one huge turning dial, this pioneering radio symbolised worldwide electronic communications. Its stark, functional and futuristic look was in tune with a period marked by enthusiasm for the anticipated benefits of a Machine Age. For the first time since its original entry into the home as a disguised scientific toy, the radio was now being presented for what it really was; a machine for entertainment and enlightenment. For all its obvious symbolism and its honesty in design, this celebrated radio can also be seen as being heavily influenced by the Art Deco movement which was becoming increasingly popular – along with the “art into industry” design principles of Germany’s Bauhaus Design School.
Wells Coates (1895 – 1958), the architect and furniture designer (see image), was born in Canada, yet became famous for his work in the UK. He designed furniture for the British furniture manufacturer Pel and designed the Lawn Road flats in Hampstead, London (see images). He also designed this stunning modernist radio, the EKCO AD-65, which is now regarded as one of the modern movement’s ground-breaking designs of the early twentieth century.
In his radio design he exploited the properties of Bakelite and did not disguise the machine with cabinet-work like other radios of the day. Ironically, this model, which uses brown plastic to simulate burr-walnut, was more popular than the more industrial black plastic version. The severe geometric shape defined the visual vocabulary of radio design for many years and Coates produced several variations of the AD-65 though to 1945.
Up until the beginning of the 1930s, the wireless - as it was known back then - was of considerable size and imitated cabinet furniture. Technological advances, coupled with the introduction of plastics, allowed more compact sets; and when in 1931 the BBC built Modernist studios - some designed by Wells Coates, home radio styles followed suit.
EKCO was founded by Eric Kirkham Cole in the 1920s. The company was based in Prittlewell, Southend from 1930 until the 1970s. EKCO was a major employer in Southend with thousands of people working in the factory, design studios and offices. It was one of the first companies to use Bakelite in the construction of radio cabinets, having failed to find success with ‘traditional' wooden wireless sets. The company made the bold decision in 1930 to begin selling plastic cabinets. Ekco initially purchased its Bakelite cabinets from German company AEG (Allgemeine Elektrizitats Gesellschaft). Yet by 1931 had established its own Bakelite moulding shop adjacent to its Southend On Sea works, and brought in famous architects such as Serge Chermayeff and Wells Coates to design them. EKCO's round radios of the 1930s - particularly the AD 65 designed by Wells Coates - have become Art Deco design classics.
Country of origin: UK
Manufacturer: E. K. Cole Ltd, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK
Designer: Wells Coates OBE
Cabinet material: Bakelite and woven cloth
Height 40cm Width 39.5cm Depth 20cm
Condition: immaculate with a very tiny nick to the front grill (see image). We cannot guarantee it to be in full working order, yet it was purchased from the sale of an important collection of early radios, owned by a renowned collector - who spent his years restoring them. Supplied with original two-pin plug mains cable (see image).
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