Ralph Rapson grew up drawing all the time wth his left (and only) hand. His imaginative, skillful drafting got the attention of Eliel Saarinen and landed him a scholarship at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. There, working with the likes of Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Florence Schust (Knoll), Rapson was known for his creativity and his deft, lively drawings of furniture and buildings.
After working with the Saarinens at their architecture firm, teaching and studying at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and winning multiple architecture contests, Rapson's accomplishments in 1945-1950 helped define the direction of Mid-Century Modernism in America:
- His 1945 Rapson Line for Knoll® marked the emergence of the modern aesthetic into the mainstream of post-war life.
- His 1945 Rapson Greenbelt™ House (Case Study #4) remains a primary influence on the design of modern houses that unify light, nature, and active living.
- His 1950 store, Rapson-Inc., revolutionized the sale of modern goods by bringing furnishings, housewares, and textiles into a single, design-centered shop.
Throughout a long and successful career as an award-winning architect and teacher, Ralph Rapson kept imagining and drawing new furniture designs. In 'retirement', he began to reintroduce old designs and make new ones. After overseeing the redesign and reintroduction of the Rapson Bentwood Rocker (a.k.a., Rapson Rapid Rocker) in 2002, he also won the Dwell Lounge design competition in 2007 at age 92.
Since his death in 2008, his family has continued to oversee small batch production of his designs by American craftsmen.
For more on Ralph Rapson and his designs, please check out our media page for articles or follow these links:
AIA - Rapson Traveling Fellowship
Knoll / Knoll Museum
Cranbrook Academy - Rapson Bibliography
Rapson Hall - University of Minnesota College of Architecture and Design