RALPH E. RAPSON, FAIA (1914-2008)
Born in 1914 in Alma MI, Rapson attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Cranbrook Academy of Art studying under Eliel Saarinen.
In 1942 he entered private practice in Chicago while also serving as Head of the Department of Architecture at the Institute of Design. He was appointed Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at MIT in 1946 then opened an office in Cambridge MA. From 1951-53 he worked in Europe designing American embassies.
He was the youngest of nine architects selected to participate in the seminal 1950s Case Study Houses Program. However, his entry known as Case Study House #4 was never built.
His is known for the former Guthrie Theater building across from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. His resume also includes the Rarig Center for Performing Arts at the University of Minnesota/Minneapolis, the United States embassies in Stockholm and Copenhagen, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Paul Park, the Riverside Plaza housing complex in Minneapolis, the former Pillsbury House in Wayzata, and the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church for the Deaf in St. Paul.
Rapson also designed furniture and accessories for Knoll Furniture in the 1940s and had his own furniture line in the 1950s. Among his most noteworthy pieces was the Rapson Rapid Rocker, left.
Rapson led the University of Minnesota School of Architecture from 1954 to 1984 when he retired to private practice. He died in 2008.
1938 - The 4/16 House Competition. Designed with John Van der Meulen. The day after graduation from Cranbrook, Rapson and Van der Meulen entered a small project in the "4/16 Competition", organized by Architectural Forum magazine. It was a completely modular design based on multiples of standardized dimensional materials and techniques, including two-by-four lumber, sixteen inch spacing, and four-, eight-, and sixteen-inch masonry units. Althought the 4/16 house failed to win first place, it received an honorable mention and $50.
1939 - The Earth-Excavated Cave House, designed with Dave Runnells while at Cranbrook. Unbuilt.
1939 - The Fabric House, designed with Dave Runnells while at Cranbrok. Unbuilt. The house is an insulated tent, all roofs and walls are insulated fabric panels that allow the utmost flexibility in planning and design. The prefabricated roll fabric is placed over a skeleton of light, stamped metal. The structural members are a system of tele-pipe similar to present day airplane sections. A tele-pipe system allows an almost infinite placing of walls and roof. A mechanical package contains all the necessary bathroom, kitchen, heating and electrical requirements. Radiant floor heating panels are placed in the floor construction and are completely demountable. Electrical panel boxes, likewise, are placed in the floor. The floor is chemically treated tamped earth laid over six inches of crushed rock bed on which any floor covering can be laid. Sources: KCModern and Dave Runnell's daughter.
In 1941, Rapson submitted The Fabric House for The New House 194X competition.
1939 - The Hageberg House, Okemos MI. Based on the Cave house, constructed largely below grade. The residence enjoyed good light and ventilation, did not leak, and was structurally solid. Unsure if built. No address or photo. Do you have one?
1940 – aka Longshadows, a residence built for Harry D. Hoey, Headmaster at Cranbrook School for Boys in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Hoey was Assistant Headmaster 1944-1951 then Headmaster until retirement in 1964. The school is part of Cranbrook Educational Community, a 319-acre campus.
It is not known if the Hoeys ever lived in the residence, as on-campus housing was required for the Headmaster at that time. A stretched out, single level home with an open, horizontal floor plan. Designed with fellow Cranbrook Academy of Art student, Walter Hickey. No address, needs verification.
1940 - Halfmoon Series, aka prefab mobile homes for Redman Trailer Company, Alma MI.
According to Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design by son Rip Rapson, "He hoped his next step after (high school) graduation might be an apprenticeship with a practicing architect, someone who could help him move from classroom exercises to real projects. There was nobody of that description in Alma, so he looked to Midland, where the preeminent architect was Alden Dow, son of the Dow Chemical Company's founder. Rapson made an appointment.
Although Dow courteously reviewed the young man's senior-year portfolio, he explained that he didn't have enough work to support an apprentice. He suggested that Rapson talk with a friend of his at the Redman Trailer Company, an Alma-based manufacturer of mobile homes. Rapson followed up. Redman wasn't ready to hire Rapson either but encouraged him to stay in touch, which he did. A few years later, the relationship bore fruit. Rapson designed a half-dozen models, named the Half Moon series, variations of which the company produced."
No address or photo of these. Do
you have any?
No address or photo of these. Do you have any?
1943 - The Ronald G. and Helen Evans House, aka the Halcyon House, 112 North Grant Street, Hinsdale IL. Built. Appears to have been destroyed by 1963.
Commissioned 1939. Rapson was working for Peterson at the time. Helen Evans was Peterson's secretary. Rapson was fired from Peterson's firm for doing this project instead of coming into work. The Halcyon house was a one-and-a-half- story structure "stacked" on three levels. The bedrooms were up a half-level from the entry area, and the living room was a half-level down, creating a twelve-foot high living room space. Rapson used natural wood on the inside instead of plaster, and sheathed the outside with redwood siding.
1945 - The Realistic House for Georgia.
Rich's Department Store in Atlanta sponsored a national
architectural competition "for the design of a realistic house for a
family in Georgia" in cooperation with Progressive Architecture
magazine which published the program for the competition in its
October 1945 issue. Atlanta architect Henry J. Toombs and
Kenneth Reid, editor of the magazine, served as advisors for the
competition plus a jury of 6 architects. Hugh
Stubbins Jr won first place, Watson Balharrrie from Ottawa, 2nd,
Harold Calhoun of Houston TX, 3rd. There were 568 entries.
1944 - The J. G. Lopez House, aka the Homes and Gardens "Blueprints for Tomorrow" House. Included an open, horizontal organization of space, extensive use of glass in partitions and exterior walls, and utilization of an interior open court to serve as both a children's play area and an outdoor living room. Unbuilt.
1945 - The ABC House, a competition entry for "Design of a House for Cheerful Living." This competition was sponsored jointly by Architectural Forum and the glass and paint manufacturer PPG Industries. Rapson won third place.
1945 - The Johnson Residence, Chicago IL. No address or photo. Do you have one?
1945 - The Deerfield Houses, Chicago IL. No address or photo. Do you have one?
1945 - The Greenbelt House, aka Case Study House #4. Unbuilt at the time, Rapson did finally get this design built in 1989, for an indoor exhibit Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. With Rapson, Nathan Wieler launched a series of modular houses in the early 2000's based in North Carolina.
1946 - The
Lourie Walker House,
921 South Hale Street, Wheaton IL.
1946 - The Lee Gladstone House, 1700 Richmond Road, McHenry IL. The principal architect was John van der Muelen. Destroyed sometime around 1993 and now an Applebee's.
According to daughter Lorna Gladstone, it was her mother's idea to go with the modern look for the house; her dad wasn't so sure about it. Her mom had a friend who worked with Knoll and Herman Miller Interiors. The house was completely furnished with their furniture. The house had a flat roof and large sliding glass winows in most rooms. Featured in LIFE Magazine.
Rapson also built a medical clinic for Gladstone on Green Street in 1956, shown in the photo below. It too has been destroyed.
1946 - The Shank House, Homewood IL. Done for a young couple on a budget of less than $5,000, Rapson resorted to a number of economizing features including using cinder block in place of more expensive vertical siding. Borrowing an idea from George Fred Keck, he designed a flat roof with a lip running the entire permieter to contain rainwater; if water rose above a certian level, a spigot opened to release the excess into the gutters. In the summer the water cooled the house. He also incorporated a radiant-heating system beneath the floor that used clay tiles. Unsure if built.
1946 - The Willard and
Adele Gidwitz House I,
4912 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago
1950 - The Eastgate Apartments, now called the 100 Memorial Drive Apartments, 100 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA. 29 stories. Facing a large number of World War II veterans returning to school on the GI Bill, MIT was forced to build new housing for graduate students. Rapson collaborated on the design along with DeMars, Brown, Robert Woods Kennedy, and Carl Koch. Won the AIA First Honor Award 1950.
1950 - The National Association of Home Builders House Design
Competition. Rapson actually sent in two submissions to the competition,
one under the name Mary Dolan (his second wife's name) and his own.
Luckily, his own won second place in the nationwide division and first for one
of the regional divisions.
1950 - The Schechter House, aka the House of Doors, 34 Robinson Road, Lexington MA. Built. Rapson was asked by the Hillside School for Boys in Marlborough in Boston to design a number of small residences. The client had purchased more than one hundred insulated doors at a factory close-out sale and asked Rapson to incorporate them into the design; he did, using the doors not only for their traditional entrance and exit functions, but for exterior walls, interior partitions, and flooring. Sold in 1976 to Allen E. and Mary Armstrong. Sold in 2007 to Robert C. Weir.
Around 1952 - US Embassy Staff Housing, Paris, France. Designed with John Van der Meulen.
1954 - The
Williard Gidwitz Residence II, Ravinia IL.
1954 - The Kern House, Lincoln MA. No photo or address. Needs verification.
1956 - Model House for the Southeast Housing Homestyle Center, aka Grand Rapids Homestyle Center Residence, Grand Rapids MI. Unbuilt. Other participantsr included Alden Dow, Harwell Hamilton Harris, George Nelson, and Paul Rudolph.
In 1956 Detroit realtor Jason Honigman conceived a project called The Home Research Foundation to showcase new modernist houses on 80 acres outside Grand Rapids, MI. The press referred to it as "an outdoor museum for houses," "the world's most wondrous village," and, eventually, "the lost theme park." The project was extensively promoted in major design magazines such as Architectural Record, Arts and Architecture, and Interiors. The first set of 12 homes was to be designed and started in 1956, followed by 13 in 1957, and 25 more over a span of 3 years, ending in 1960. The Home Research Foundation closed its offices in May 1957 due to funding issues. The Homestyle Center was never built but the original lake around which the houses were to be built is now part of the 132 acre Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, which was planned in 1982 and opened in 1995.
1957 - The William G. (Jerry) and Frances Shepard House, 2197 Folwell Avenue, St Paul MN. This was the first Rapson house in the University Grove Neighborhood. Won a 1958 AIA Honor Award. Sold in 2009 to Dan Voytas and Tony Payne.
1958 - The Poole House, Lotus Lake, Chanhassen MN. Designed with Douglas Baird Associates. No address or photo. Do you have one? Featured in Northwest Architecture Magazine twice in 1960.
1958 - The Alan Thal House, North Oaks MN. No address or photo. Do you have one? Featured in Northwest Architecture Magazine twice in 1960. Designed with Douglas Baird.
1959 - The Winton House, Maple Plain MN, outside of Wayzata. No address or photo. Do you have one? The son of the owners is named David.
1960 - The
Jackson Development Co-op Apartment,
1960 - The
Wayzata Housing Development, Wayzata
The Meech Residence,
430 Holly Lane, Plymouth MN.
Won a 1959 AIA Honor Award. Sold in 1979 to
Jerry and Maurine Shink. Although the original Meech
property has been subdivided and nearly 70 houses now stand in the once pristine
woods, the home still sits on a two-acre site. Over the years, the
Shinks made some modifications with Rapson's advice. They converted the study
into a master bedroom and the original master bedroom into a master bath. They
also covered up the original rolled linoleum floor that Mrs. Meech insisted
upon. On the children's level, three bedrooms were reconfigured as two.
The1950s bomb shelter remains, used as storage. Sold in 2007.
Around 1959 - The N. Gault House, 1595 Vincent Avenue, St. Paul MN. Sold around 1962 to Morrell. Sold around 1992 to Karen Burke and Grayson McCouch. Sold around 1996 to Scott McConnell and Ann Johnson. One of Rapson's University Grove Houses.
1960 - Urban Housing Development, Cincinnati OH. Unbuilt.
1960 - The Edward and Markell Brooks Residence, aka Longshadows, on Long Lake in Orono MN. Rapson was reluctant to build a Japanese-inspired home but the persuasion of Markell Brooks, along with her collaboration on the design, convinced him. The 6,100 square foot home integrates the Japanese modern look with glass walls, cedar and redwood built-ins, and shoji screens designed by Rapson. He dubbed the home Longshadows after the shadows cast by the overhanging roofline. The 4 bedroom, 6 bath home sits on 5 acres on a hill overlooking Long Lake. An original studio apartment is also part of the property. Bought by Mary Haldeman Dayton in 1975. The kitchen was updated in 2000, an existing porch has been enclosed, and a heated pool added. Her son David had it on the market in 2010.
1961 - The Ray and Kay Price House, 4730 Coffee Lane, St Paul MN.
1961 - The
Cohen House, Eau Claire WI.
1962 - The Harold Kelly House, 1564 Burton Street, St. Paul MN. Commissioned around 1959. Sold around 1972 to Harry and Billie Foreman. Sold in 1999 to Todd Hogg and Maribeth Mertes. One of Rapson's University Grove Houses.
1964 - The Philip and Eleanor Pillsbury, Jr. House, Ferndale Road, Wayzata MN. Commissioned 1963. In three separate but connected pavilions, large expanses of brick and glass wall floated between a sculptured white stucco roof fascia and structural platform. Featured in Architectural Record in 1963.
In 1990 AIA-MN honored the house as a masterpiece, but late in 1996, Bill Cooper bought the property and, according to Rapson, dismissed any notion of preserving it saying “It’s not my cup of tea.”
By February 1997, the house was destroyed even before it could be included on the list of the state’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Buildings. Cooper built a new McMansion where he hosted fund-raisers featuring Dick Cheney and George H. W. Bush.
University Courts Housing, Minneapolis MN.
1963 - The Detroit Housing Project, Detroit MI. Unbuilt.
1963 - The Houston Housing Project, Houston TX. Unbuilt.
1964 - The Butler House, 1630 Edgcumbe Road, St. Paul MN. Sold in 1973 to Jack and Linda Hoeschler. A new garage with an inverted roof was added in 2009, with the old garage converted into a library -- designed by David O'Brien Wagner and Jared Banks; interior design by Meredith Wilson; built by Northstar Remodeling.
1964 - The Al and Jean Hood House, 2160 Folwell Avenue, St. Paul MN. Sold in 1966 to Wolfgang and Marilyn Taraba. Sold in 1990 to Samuel Krislov. Sold in 1991 to Nygui Lin and Yan Song. Sold in 2006 to Chris and Jennifer Reedy. One of Rapson's University Grove Houses.
1966 - The Red Cedar House, aka the Weyerhaeuser Demonstration House D-1317, aka The Mondrian, Kings Lane, Jonathan MN. 1648 sf. It was a commission from the Weyerhaeuser Company using Weyerhaeuser products and was designed as “a house for everyman.” Featured in Better Homes and Gardens.
Jonathan MN was a planned town with its own industrial, commercial, and recreational activities as well as housing. Within its 8,142 acres was to be a town center for 15,000, three industrial parks, and a central commercial complex. By 1990 the population was to be 50,000 and Jonathon was to link with the Twin cities by some type of fixed-rail rapid transit system. Jonathan is now a homeowners' association, the largest in MN with 2,300 households. It was planned by the Jonathan Development Corporation and begun in 1967 by Minnesota State Senator and real estate developer Henry T. McKnight. The development corporation folded in 1979, and Jonathan was annexed by the city of Chaska.
1966 - The
Mrs Albert Hood House II, Ames IA.
1966 - The Ira Gourley House, 2118 Folwell Avenue, St. Paul MN. Sold in the early 1970's to Irving and Carol Gottesman. Sold in the early 1980's to Richard Meisch and Diane Tanabe. Sold to Ken and Doreen Leopold. One of Rapson's University Grove Houses.
1967 - The Patarasp and Shirley Sethna House, 2147 Hoyt Street, St. Paul MN. Sold in 1995 to Nevin and Diane Young. One of Rapson's University Grove Houses.
1968 - The Joseph Livermore House, 2179 Folwell Avenue, St Paul MN. One of Rapson's University Grove Houses. Top two photos by Barbara Lamprecht. Sold in the 1970's to Hochberg. Sold in the late 1970's to Joanne Eicher.
1969 - The Scott W. Butwin House, 1101 Sylvandale Road, Mendota Heights MN. Commissioned 1967.
1969 - The Bell House, Roseville MN. No address or photo. Do you have one?
1969 - The
House of Leather and Suede, Edina MN.
1970 - The
F. Bruce Lewis House, Annandale MN.
About 1970 - The David and
Joan Wyer House I, Wayzata
1973 - The Riverside Plaza Apartments (aka Cedar Square West Apartments), 4th Street and Cedar Avenue, St Paul MN. Featured 2nd home of Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore television show. Foreclosed in 1985. Sold in 1988 to Sherman Associates. Has been renovated.
1974 - The Ralph Rapson Vacation House, aka Glass Cube, 1370 50th Avenue, Amery WI. Featured in Architecture Week, August 2007.
1975 - The David and Joan Wyer House II, aka The Strampe House, 19700 Lakeview, Deephaven MN. Built by the Wyers with a stunning view of Carson's Bay. Commissioned 1974. Sold in 2003 to James and Kathy Strampe. Sold in April 2011 to Huagui Li and Xiaojian Shen.
1977 - The
Vernon Tew House, Wayzata MN.
1979 - The Tree House. No address or photo. Do you have one?
1979 - The Fritz Rosendahl Condos, aka the Willow Run Condos,
16148 Highway 86, Spirit Lake IA. Won an MSAIA Honor Award in 1985 .
1979 - The Rick and Claudia Davis House, 15612 Upper 34th Street, Afton MN.
1980 - The Liu House, North Oaks
1980 - The Hitchcock Summer House, Lake Millie Lacs
1984 - The Lenz-Polesky House, Minneapolis
1985 - The Charles and Maryanne Lo House, 271 Twin Lakes Trail, Little Canada MN. Renovated in 2011 by Laun Sanderson with interior design by Kathryn Johnson.
1987 - The David and Kathy Daly House, 2152 West Hoyt, St Paul MN. One of Rapson's University Grove Houses. Renovated in 1997 by Rapson.
1988 - The Marijo Crimont Toner House, Madrid
1989 - The Heller House Remodel, 2159 Hoyt Avenue, University Grove area of St. Paul MN. The original house was designed by Elizabeth and Winston Close, who designed 14 homes in the University Grove neighborhood. No photo. Do you have one? Needs verification.
1992 - The Heller House
Remodel 2, North Oaks
1995 - The Trus-Joist MacMillan Frameworks House,
1996 - The Charles Dolan House, Laramie
1996 - The Heller Highwater Apartments, Minneapolis
The Erica Johnson House, Bloomington MN.
1998 - The Mary Anne and Darwin J. DeRosier House, 899 Tanglewood (County Road G2), Shoreview MN. Needs photo verification.
1998 - The Rose and Peter Dwyer House, St. Cloud
2007 - The Jodi Peterson Residence, 4729 Annaway Drive, Edina MN. Commissioned 2005. According to Midwest Home Magazine, May 2007, Peterson "called Ralph's office in May 2005 not expecting him to pick up his own phone. He agreed to do the addition as long as it was approved by original architect Jack Smuckler. When it was finished, Peterson admitted it went beyond what she had planned as a residence for her 3 young daughters and herself and it had become more of a work of art. She put it on the market with the intention of having Rapson design another home for her. Even the front yard sculpture garden with a reflective black-bottom pool was designed by Rapson, with Peterson's assistance." Sold to Franck L. Gougeon.
2003 - The Greenbelt 2, Sag Harbor NY. Do you know where it is?
Built by Nathan Wieler. Rapson submitted a modified version of Case Study #4, aka the Greenbelt house, to the Dwell Home Design Invitational, a project for Nathan Wieler and fiancee Ingrid Tung in Pittsboro NC. With assistance from his son, architect Toby Rapson, Rapson redesigned the house with a two-story atrium. Although Rapson's design was not chosen by DWELL, Wieler's development company asked Rapson to develop a new model. Rapson came up with 7 designs, from a small starter home to a townhouse configuration. These were produced by the Wieler Company with assistance from Ralph Rapson and Associates.
Year unknown - The Feldstein Miller House Renovations, aka Alexander Place Condos, 1917 Summit Avenue, St Paul MN. A villa built in 1925 by Feldstein Miller Architects. The two condos are very large, at least 4 bedrooms each. Renovated by Rapson.