October 24, 2011 Mid-Century Modern

Ralph Rapson Exhibit at Archer; Opening Reception Nov. 4


Frank Lloyd bought two. That’s a good endorsement of the bentwood rocking chair known as the Rapson Rapid Rocker. The chair was originally designed in 1939 by Ralph Rapson, a leading American modernist architect and furniture designer, who is known for his unique sketches and for designing Case Study House #4 (unbuilt; modified versions available here).

Rapson Rocker 1939

To learn more about Rapson’s furniture designs, head to Archer in Georgetown for the upcoming Ralph Rapson: The Architect as Chair Designer, the first exhibit dedicated to the furniture designs of the award-winning Rapson. The opening reception for the exhibit is Nov. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit, which will run until Dec. 4, is curated by architectural historian and co-author of Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design, Jane King Hession. (I recently sold Jane’s custom Goodman in Hollin Hills. Jane and her husband are now building a modern home in Minnesota.)

The show will feature highly sought-after vintage Rapson chairs, produced in the 1940s for H.G. Knoll, as well as sketches–crafted in Rapson’s famous and inimitable style (see above)–for dozens of unrealized furniture designs. The event will showcase chairs from Rapson-Inc.’s new production line of Rapson classics, available exclusively at Robert Chapman’s ARCHER.


“We are thrilled at the depth and breadth of the ARCHER event and exhibit,” says Rapson-Inc. owner Toby Rapson, who is scheduled to attend the opening night reception. “Robert is deeply knowledgeable about Modernism, and the ARCHER space is beautiful. It’s a great honor to be featured in the showroom and have Robert’s help in telling my dad’s story.”

Born in Michigan, Rapson graduated from the University of Michigan and studied urban planning at Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Bloomfield Hills under Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, where colleagues included Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia and Eero Saarinen. In 1945, at age 31, Rapson designed hisĀ  furniture line for H.G. Knoll and became the youngest of the original group of nine architects invited to participate in Arts + Architecture magazine’s seminal Case Study House program in postwar housing.

H.G. Knoll Rapson ad

Both an architect and educator, Rapson taught at the New Bauhaus in Chicago and at MIT before beginning a 30-year tenure as head of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota in 1954. He designed the original Tyrone Guthrie Theatre (1963) in Minneapolis as well as numerous projects for the U.S. State Department, including extant embassies in Stockholm and Copenhagen. In his spare time, Rapson prolifically designed chairs. At the age of 92, his Lounge Chair entry prevailed over those by much younger competitors to win BluDot/Dwell magazine’s 2007 design competition. Rapson passed away at the in 2008 at the age of 93.

Hope to see many of you at the opening reception next Friday evening.