George Heinrich

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted May 05, 2013 in Architecture, Minneapolis, Minnesota, modern architecture, Photography, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson Greenbelt Rocker, Rapson Rapid Rocker

George Heinrich is a Minneapolis based photographer whose exceptional work was much admired by Ralph. He has photographed for both the Children's Theater and the Jungle Theater. His photo's have graced the covers of Architecture Magazine and Architecture Minnesota. 

George also has a person connection to the Rapsons, and took a very nice set of portraits of Ralph late in life. Over the years he also photographed projects for Rapson Architects including the Pillsbury House and the U of MN 19th Street Parking Ramp. More recently George took pictures of Ralph's prototypes for Rapson-Inc's current furniture line. The photos below are all Heinrich work.

Ralph Rapson's personal Rapid Rocker with custom bentwood back.

Ralph Rapson's personal Rapson Rapid Rocker (with custom bentwood back).

Rapson-Inc. Greenbelt Rocker in custom black lacquer and hair-on-hide leather

Rapson-Inc. Greenbelt Rocker in custom black lacquer and hair-on-hide leather.

Rapson Architects' 19th Street Ramp

19th Street Parking Ramp, designed by Rapson Architects

Portrait of Ralph Rapson at the Pillsbury house by George Hienrich

Ralph Rapson at the Pillsbury House.

Visit George's webpage for more of his work:

George's work will be on display this Friday, May 10th at the Huscha Studio in Downtown Minnepolis. Stop by to support this excellent artist.

Friday May 10th, 2013
5:00 - 9:30 pm

700 South 3rd St, LL2
Minneapolis, MN 55415


The Cranbrook Years: Rapson & the Saarinens

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted May 14, 2012 in Cranbrook, Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, modern architecture, Ralph Rapson, The Rapson Line, WWII

By the time Ralph Rapson was starting to study architecture at the University of Michigan in the late 1930s, he had already begun researching the emerging modern works of European architects and adopted the clean sketching style of Le Corbusier.  But it was the two years Rapson spent under the tutorage of Eliel Saarinen in the graduate program at Cranbrook were the most influential to his designs and method.

Rapson had arrived early the summer of 1939, before classes started, so that he could get a work space close to Saarinen’s studio. "It was an enormous studio, with six or eight big tables. It was on the corner, and my windows looked right out over the next building. Twenty feet away was “Pappy” Saarinen’s studio, so every morning I could wave and pop over there and talk to him.” (King Hession, Rapson, & Wright, 13)

Saarinen was soon calling on Ralph Rapson to help with projects in his the office of his architecture firm as well. Saarinen was a well-respected architect and urban designer in Finland before moving to the US, and much praised for his ability to portray the Finnish national identity through a more modern, symbolic form

Though Rapson cherished his apprenticeship under Saarinen, he, like other students in the studio, regarded the elder Saarinen's designs as increasingly dated:

"...I really didn’t appreciate Pappy [Eliel Saarinen] at the time. We thought of him as not necessarily out of style but as a regional traditionalist. And because I was just beginning to discover Le Corbusier and others, I felt Pappy represented more of a Scandinavian arts and crafts approach to design. It wasn’t until years later that I, and others, recognized what he was truly contributing to the field of modern design. Perhaps the most important lesson he imparted was the careful, patient search – that to ignore the question of the style was the most sincere way of achieving an architecture of our time."         (King Hession, Rapson, & Wright, 15)

Ralph Rapson (left), Eero Saarinen & Fred James discussing plans for the College of William and Mary, February 1939
[Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, #4832]

Rapson developed a strong working relationship and friendship with the son of Eliel, Eero Saarinen, who had graduated from Yale and joined his father’s office at Cranbrook two years before Rapson’s arrival. Eero is known to have worked feverishly on projects, often working into the wee hours of the night. Rapson had no choice but to follow suit, though he incorporated a few antics of his own to lighten the studio mood. 

Among other things, Rapson was known to instigate a game of touch football on warm autumn afternoons. (Yes, Ralph only had one arm, but he loved football.)  Thinking of the work to be done, Eero neither condoned playing football nor understood Rapson’s motivation. When Eero confronted Rapson about it, Rapson just smiled and pointed out that football helped the architects to vent frustrations and return to their desks revived and ready to work.

Ralph Rapson running down sideline during touch football game at Cranbrook, 1939.
[Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, #284]

Some time later, Rapson pushed his luck and half carried, half dragged Eero from his office to the field.

Before long, Eero had taken command of plays and made himself permanent quarterback for all future games.

Read the full story in: King Hession, J., Rapson, R., & Wright, B. N. (1999). Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design. Afton: Afton Historical Society Press.

 Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc.


A Futuristic 'New Town' on the Cuff of the Twin Cities Still Retains its Charms

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted June 05, 2012 in 1960s urban planning, Futuristic Modern Communities, Jonathan Minnesota, Minnesota, modern architecture, New Towns, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson-Inc., Satellite Cities, The Red Cedar House

MinnPost recently posted an interesting article about a modernist suburban town, Jonathan, Minnesota, which now acts as a neighborhood within the Chaska city limits. Jonathan was planned as a 'New Town' in the 1960s, based on an idea that originated in Sweden and took a strong hold in Scotland, England and the United States. Jonathan was the first of its kind in the US, putting into play many of the urban planning principles of its Swedish predecessors. I can't say if the creators of Jonathan looked specifically to Sweden as a guide, but I do know that one contributing architect, Ralph Rapson, spent much of the early 1950s in Scandinavian countries, designing US Embassies for Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, and The Hague. In the process of designing the Stockholm US Embassy, Rapson worked alongside the preeminent Stockholm urban planner, Sven Markelius, the man behind Stockholm's infamous 'Satellite Cities' or 'New Towns'.

Ralph Rapson designed only one home for the Jonathan community in 1966, The Red Cedar House - aka the Weyerhaeuser Demonstration House D-1317. Ralph was commissioned by the Weyerhaeuser Company to design "a house for everyman", using Weyerhaeuser products. The home was featured in Better Homes & Gardens and the plans were made available to anyone for reproduction. It was intended for the self-supporting community to be linked to the Twin Cities via some sort of high speed rail system, much like the Satellite Cities of Stockholm, but the Jonathan Development Corporation folded in 1979 before that stage of the project was realized. 

Much of the futuristic town remains intact, including The Red Cedar House. See the MinnPost article for more on the history and quirky characteristics of Minnesota's own 'New Town'. 

[photo credits: Triangle Modernist Houses]

Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc. 


Ralph Rapson Design: St. Peter's Lutheran Church

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted May 14, 2012 in Edina, lutheran church, Mid-century church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, modern architecture, Ralph Rapson

In the post-war period, many Minneapolis/Saint Paul citizens moved to the newly expanding suburbs for the better life they were promised in the advertisements and news. Families were drawn by the abundance of new houses with large front lawns for their young children. The Bar-B-Que became a new neighborhood past time and shops sold everything from red checked table clothes to bocce ball and horseshoe sets. Husbands joined bowling leagues, fraternities and golf clubs. Women enjoyed the modern ammentities in their kitchens and modern style of their homes. Much like the scenes of The Help, they volunteered in the community, attended school meetings and met for bridge tournaments. Schools and churches saw overwhelming membership growth in these years, and many opted for a new building in the modern style to suit the modern tastes of their young members. 

I have come across the Ralph Rapson designed St. Peter’s Lutheran Church a number of times in print, but this past Monday, I finally went to see it in person. Toby Rapson had warned me of some insensitive changes made to the building over the years, so my mild disappointment wasn’t unexpected. The sanctuary was still wonderful, even on an overcast grey day. The 8 peaks of the octagonal plan let in floods of bright white light, illuminating the pulpit and the whole sanctuary. Much like a theatre in the round, the space is democratic, with no seat is too far from the centre.

My disappointment lies in the space around the sanctuary. Crowding the sanctuary, the space is dark and uninspiring. Looking back to photos after its construction in 1957, I see that originally, this space was lined with large floor to ceiling exterior windows. One wall of the sanctuary was also open to this surrounding space, creating a nice open flow. Now it feels as if the sanctuary is a mismatched piece squeezed into the wrong puzzle. Regardless, the sanctuary is one of a kind and is definitely worth seeing.

[photo credit: Rapson Architects]                                 

Also of note in the area is the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, located at 48th and France. Built during the same period, the sanctuary is similar to that of Christ Church Lutheran by Eliel Saarinen, however it reminded me of a Viking long hall with the heavy wooden plank ceiling and paintings. Its a beautiful space with notable artwork throughout. 

[all other photos credits to: Caroline Engel]

Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc.


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