Parties, Exhibits Commemorate Ralph Rapson's 100th Birthday

Ralph Rapson was a man who loved a good party. And although he was not here to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his September 13, 1914 birth, his friends, family, colleagues, and admirers found plenty of ways to recognize the big event with Rapsonian style and flair. On the eve of Ralph’s birthday, revelries kicked off at Rapson Hall at the University of Minnesota with a panoramic group photo of scores of mature and responsible adults wearing DIY paper Rapson mustaches.

As well as the party, a few smart people at RR's beloved University of Minnesota realized that Ralph’s centennial presented an opportunity to showcase his talents and accomplishments. Two Rapson exhibitions opened at the University in the early fall and will run through early 2015. 

At Rapson Hall, Rapson at 100: Process | Themes | Variations takes a close look at Ralph’s creative thinking and use of drawing as a design tool through three projects, including his Glass Cube, the Rapson family retreat in rural Amery, Wisconsin. The energy and inventiveness of these drawings is something to behold.




A more extensive exhibition at the Andersen Library, Ralph Rapson: A Legacy in Architecture and Design draws from the Ralph Rapson Papers at the Northwest Architectural Archives to provide a broader view of his years in Minnesota beginning in 1954. (Materials from Rapson’s pre-1954 career are housed at the Cranbrook Archives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.) The breadth of this exhibit is amazing.  We think RR would love this snapshot of his design career:




Among the original drawings included in the show are three of Rapson’s façade studies for the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre (1963) as well as many other striking renderings and models of his designs, both both built and unrealized. For anyone who's ever marveled at RR's design for St. Peter's Church, the drawings and model of the roof line are a real treat:



No Rapson exhibit would be complete without chairs (obviously). The Andersen Library exhibit features two: a Highback Rapson Greenbelt™ Rocker in walnut and black leather, and a red Rapson Cave Chair by Loll Designs:



So, Happy Birthday, Ralph. We tried to think of everything to make this the special celebration you deserve. The only thing that’s missing is you.


This blog was guest-written by Jane King Hession, one of Ralph's accomplished biographers as well as a true friend to Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, and Rapson-Inc.

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Robert imber

RIP RR… Two of my very most memorable days were spent with Mr.,Rapson in NYC in 2005…we could hardly keep up with his passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm exploring the streets and museums through his masterful eye. Then regaled and further educated at his lecture at the AIA.

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