We sit together: a journey to the heart of Bang & Olufsen design

The historic high-design technology brand is nearing its 100th birthday. But instead of dwelling on the past, it’s forging ahead into the future. We visited its headquarters in Struer.

by Alessandro Scarano

“Hey Siri, turn on the record player!”

And there it is – the Beogram 7000 turntable, one of the last models produced by Bang & Olufsen at the end of the 20th century, hums to life. The record spins effortlessly on the platter without the need to press a single button. A soft glow emanates from the nearby chaise longue. Music drifts into the spacious living room that is both real and not quite real.

Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

The Beo Home is the idealized, fictional dwelling conceived by the esteemed Danish electronics company Bang & Olufsen to illustrate its ethos of “adapting to the user”, as explained by Jette Nygaard, Communications Specialist for Brand & Heritage. It epitomizes the seamless interaction between devices, including third-party products, creating a virtuous cycle of adaptable functionality: curtains drop to create an ambient darkness for a movie on the expansive Beovision Harmony, which then swivels to face the dining table for lunch. In the bathroom, you can enjoy both TV and music on an Aquavision Anti-Screen. And then there’s the near-magical ritual of pulling out Queen’s First Greatest Hits vinyl, placing it delicately on a shelf, only to hear its digital counterpart play from the octagonal Beosound Shape wall-mounted speakers.

This is nothing groundbreaking for B&O, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025. Nygaard recounts that back in 1982, the Beolink 1000 remote control made it possible to control audio and video playback from the comfort of your armchair; soon after, direct control of home lighting was integrated. Here in Struer, the home was already smart.

The design process at Struer

As a child, Kresten Krab-Bjerre would groove to The Doors on his family’s record player – a Bang & Olufsen, naturally, a brand he now leads as Director, Head of Creative.

Bang & Olufsen, prototypes. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

His journey was destined for this point. In his youth, he toiled in the family’s tool-making business while pursuing mechanical engineering. “I wanted to understand how things worked”, he explains. And when his curiosity turned toward the human aspect of design, he delved into industrial design in the UK. For three decades, Bang & Olufsen, with its trifecta of engineering, design, and craftsmanship, has been his home.

We sit together, work together, and solve problems together.

Kresten Krab-Bjerre

Kresten Krab-Bjerre. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

It’s Krab-Bjerre who guides Domus into the famed Big Room at B&O’s new Struer headquarters – a sprawling 25,000-square-meter expanse carved out of a former factory and bustling with some 500 people. The walls of the cafeteria are lined with photos of employees who have been with the company for at least 25 years, spanning nearly a century. While Peter Bang’s presence is unmistakable, the absence of the other founder, Svend Olufsen, who tragically passed away at 52, is palpable – a life cut short, denying him a spot on this esteemed wall. Here, in the profoundly democratic and quintessentially Scandinavian realm of Denmark, rules are rules and they apply to all, even the esteemed founders.

The spacious Big Room is divided into two distinct wings. One side resembles a trade show, with B&O’s latest offerings showcased in meticulously crafted displays and imaginative settings. At the other end is a collection of the company’s historic equipment, some of which is iconic. Krab-Bjerre points to David Lewis’s BeoSound 9000, the late-1990s upright CD player that first enhanced the artwork of records, giving the visual aspect of sound a significance we now take for granted since the advent of the iPod in 2001. It also allowed continuous shuffling of music across multiple albums, a feature that is commonplace today but less so at the time of its release. “It’s an object that does what you expect it to do”, says the designer, explaining that this is a fundamental design principle for him. “That’s what I try to do”.

Bang & Olufsen, Beolab 90. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

Just a few steps away, displayed and framed, is a 1972 letter, signed by Philip Johnson, in which MoMA detailed the Bang & Olufsen equipment to be included in its esteemed collection. For a company with its sights firmly set on the future, this is not just a tribute to past triumphs. It serves as a kind of mandate – a call to continue creating timeless appliances, today as in the past. As Krab-Bjerre says, technologies may evolve, “but people’s behavior does not”. And the goal is to create products that can be used forever. It’s a commitment deeply ingrained in the Danish company, driven not only by sustainability concerns but also by a desire to justify its place among the elite of luxury technology manufacturers. “If you do it right, you have created an icon”.   

At the heart of the Big Room is a display of the company’s present and its design process. Within this space, visitors encounter a series of mock-ups, prototypes, and an “open” version that reveals the intricate internal electronic architecture – green circuit boards and exposed circuitry. Together, these elements tell the story of the creation and evolution of the remarkable BeoSound 90. Priced at around $135,000, its sleek aluminum form rests on its side, resembling a spacecraft resting on the ground of western Denmark.

Enter the Beolab 8

But it’s the Beolab 8, the younger sibling, that steals the spotlight. Krab-Bjerre focuses his attention on this unit, going through several prototypes and cradling them with the tender touch of a parent with a child. He demonstrates the variety of placement options – on the floor, on a table, or on a wall stand – and shows how the speaker can be completely transformed in appearance, whether it be with wood or aluminum accents or a variety of colors. This versatility is achieved through an ingenious system of magnetic elements that can be effortlessly removed and reattached with a simple click.

“This is the most flexible design for modern living”, explains the creative director. The choice of colors and materials harmonizes seamlessly with B&O’s rich heritage and ties in with other speakers in the Beosound family, such as the larger Beolab 28. “For the first time since the 1980s, we are building a real line, a family of products”, says Krab-Bjerre. The distinctive finish on the underside, which looks like a bullet or miniature rocket when turned upside down, bears the unmistakable mark of Factory 5, the nearby aluminum processing plant. Here, intricate industrial processes, including the complex anodizing chain that colors the equipment, converge with the meticulous attention to detail honed over a century of experience. It’s the human touch, the expertise of skilled craftsmen, that sets the products apart. Even in the midst of robotic automation, it feels as if one is witnessing the work of dedicated craftsmen.

Bang & Olufsen, Beolab 8, prototypes. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

Working Together

Within this expansive site lies another “big room”, where vestiges of the old plant that once stood here before 2017 still linger – elevated tracks and the trusty clocking machine, remnants of an era when punching out wasn’t merely a relic of the past. Yet, unlike its counterpart, this room is devoid of products or devices; instead, it’s brimming with people. This is where they come together to collaborate on Bang & Olufsen’s extraordinary creations. “I’m proud when we succeed as a team”, Krab-Bjerre tells Domus, a sentiment deeply rooted in Scandinavian culture and inseparable from this place. “But it’s the way we’ve been taught to work since we were little”, he points out. 

Beolab 8 in production. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

The journey from conceptualizing a new product to its production typically spans about six months. Throughout this period, designers, engineers, and sound experts collaborate shoulder to shoulder, joined by colleagues from various departments. It’s a harmonious dance, a tiki-taka of sorts, culminating in a shared vision for the project. Here, unlike the conventional siloed approach found in many tech giants, there’s no incessant volley of “can’ts and won’ts” between teams or entrenched barriers – just a seamless flow of ideas and execution.

“We sit together, work together, and solve problems together”. From day one, this collaborative process unfolds over a total of two years until the product is ready for delivery. “It has to be special”, says Krab-Bjerre. Bang & Olufsen’s secret recipe lies in the seamless fusion of design and engineering, with a touch of craftsmanship – an alchemy that has consistently created magic. For a century.

Bang & Olufsen, Innovation Lab. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen


In 1945, as the Second World War drew to a close, the Bang & Olufsen factory fell victim to Nazi reprisals. Founded exactly two decades earlier on the Olufsen farm, the company had already become famous for its innovative radios. The destruction was retribution for the company’s secret support of the resistance movement, in which Olufsen himself was involved, secretly producing a portable radio (“telephone book radio”) for Danish partisans. The factory, initially reduced to rubble, was painstakingly rebuilt, a story vividly told through a series of photographs in the extensive B&O exhibit at the Struer Museum, the birthplace of the iconic brand. “It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t connected to the company in some way”, everyone tells me about this sleepy coastal town.

Bang & Olufsen, Beolab 90, prototype. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

Post-war, Bang & Olufsen had to get back on its feet. The company began producing electric shavers for men and women, which were very popular at the time. In 1950, the first prototype television rolled off the production line. But the biggest breakthrough came in the middle of the decade, catalyzed by an observation by critic Poul Henningse. He astutely pointed out to Denmark’s many radio and television manufacturers that despite the country’s burgeoning design scene, its consumer technology sector remained shackled to outdated forms.

Bang & Olufsen reacts quickly. It launched the Capri 514 – a compact television with ultra-modern lines and a curved, anti-glare screen, a design that still stands as a quintessential example of Bang & Olufsen’s aesthetic prowess. The following year, in 1959, Helge Franke Mortensen introduced the Mini Moderne 606 K radio, marking the birth of the Bang & Olufsen we know today and setting the stage for its rise to design greatness. “I was given all the freedom a designer can imagine”, says Jacob Jensen, one of the great design innovators at Bang & Olufsen, who led the company from the mid-1960s. He created turntables like the coveted Beogram 4000 (recently re-launched as the 4000c) and hi-fi systems like the iconic Beosystem 5000 – products that are still in demand today.

Bang & Olufsen's factory. Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen’s design legacy is unparalleled in consumer electronics, spanning a range of products from radios and telephones to televisions, computer keyboards (designed by David Lewis but never produced), remote controls, and even a famous bottle opener designed in 1937 – and still in production today! Yet despite this great past, it feels almost metaphorically relegated to the basement of the museum: as if to say that the past is glorious, but what truly matters is today. Today, amidst the technologically advanced landscape where Siri talks to a record player from yesteryear, Struer’s true lesson emerges: Bang & Olufsen’s success isn’t just about sound quality, sleek design, or global appeal. These are but the manifestations of a higher aspiration. The Danish company’s true distinction lies in its enduring commitment to creating immortal products – icons meant to be used and celebrated forever.

Opening image: Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

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