Herman Ricka (born in Vienna on 13 July 1913, died 1982) was Bang & Olufsen’s first designer, notably involved in designs of the 1943 models: Grand Prix 43K, Grand Prix 43CH, Maximus 43RG, Maximus 43K and Master 43K.
Born in the Viennese slums Ricka’s father was a coal mine worker and fought in the first World War where he was severely wounded. His mother died when Herman was just 4 years old.
”Our relationship was so miserable that you refused to believe that anyone could exist under such conditions. We were starving, we were scared. I remember it all perfectly clear to this day. It even gave me anxious moments ” said Herman Ricka in an interview with Fyens Times in 1963 on the occasion of his 50th birthday. The surname is of Czech origin and pronounced “Riska”.
Herman Ricka came to Denmark when he was just seven years old as one of the first Viennese children transported just after the end of the first World War II. The idea was that children would return home when conditions permitted, but because of the bad family situation at home he was adopted by a family in Odense, which initially put him into care and gave him a very happy childhood.
When Ricka was just a schoolboy he realised that he wanted to become an architect. He used to draw a lot at the time and was always happy “to look at something beautiful”, he remembered on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
A good civic education
Ricka’s adoptive parents thought he should have a good civic education as ballast and he came to learn carpentry. He later sought admission to the School of Architecture in Copenhagen, where he also studied in 1940. The following year he established in his home town his own studio which he ran until two years before his death in 1982.
In 1942 he married Mary Elfrida Sørensen (1912 - 1967). The couple could not have children, but during work for an orphanage in the city Ring he came across a little boy whom the couple subsequently adpoted. The son, Claus, later became a journalist and worked right up to his death in 2005. Another adopted son, Soren Ricka, later became an architect like his father. Soren became seriously ill, according to Claus Ricka’s former wife, Suzanne, but she does not know to this day whether he is still alive as it has not been possible to trace him.
Herman Ricka’s commissions
Herman Ricka was the initiator in 1946 of the first housing association in Odense: Odense Andelsboligforening.
He was the association’s architect and planned and supervised the construction of several thousand homes. He helped design particularly close, low buildings, courtyards and terraced houses, where quality came before quantity. The houses were built of traditional materials - usually yellow stone with roofs of yellow wing tiles. Ricka, however, also participated in 1960’s experiments with prefabricated buildings in Aahaven where townhouses and patio homes were built with facades and roofs made of pre-constructed concrete parts.
Herman Ricka’s commissions also included work in Fyn and Jutland including design assignments of consumer goods. Besides five radios for Bang & Olufsen, namely: Maximus 43K, Maximus 43RG Masters 43K, Grand Prix 43K and Grand Prix 43CH, he designed stoves for Morso Foundry, as well as lamps, cutlery and much more, according to his interview with Fyens Herald in 1963. Ricka’s former daughter also remembers that he designed furniture for her; she currently has a bookcase designed by him.