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Ralph Rapson, Architect
1914 – 2008

Ralph Rapson, a highly influential architect and interdisciplinary Modernist, was heavily influenced Eliel and Eero Saarinen at Cranbrook Academy of Art and the first generation of Modernists in America, including Charles and Ray Eames, Lazlo Moholo-Nagy, Edmund Bacon, Harry Weese, Alvar Aalto, Harry Bertoia, and Florence Schust Knoll. He immersed himself in Cranbrook's approach to metalworking, sculpture, photography, graphic design, architecture, city planning, and textile design. He studied at the University of Michigan (1938) and Cranbrook Academy of Art (1940). He worked with the Saarinens 1940-1942 and in Chicago from 1942-1946, in part with George Fred Keck and Schweikher and Lamb. He was the Head of the design curriculum with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy at the New Bauhaus and Institute of Design in Chicago (1942-1946) and, for a short time, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was in private practice in Cambridge, MA and on the Architecture faculty at Massachussetts Institute of Technology (1946-1954), the Dean of the University of Michigan School of Architecture (1954-1984), and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (1965). He led Rapson & Associates from 1954-2008. He designed Case Study House #4 (“Greenbelt House”) as part of the Arts & Architecture program, 1954. His famous 'Rapson Rapid Rocker’ was one of hundreds of furniture designs he produced for Knoll Furniture. He designed International Modern embassies in Stockholm and Copenhagen . Rapson’s detailed and whimsical drawings, frequently with animated characters, were hallmarks of his career which focused on people and their interaction with architecture.

By Joe Kunkel

Source: Rapson, Sixty Years of Modern Design, by Hession, Rapson and Wright, Afton Historical Society Press, ISBN: 1-890434-14-0