After completing studies at Alma College, the University of Michigan, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Ralph Rapson worked for the Saarinen architectural practice with Eliel and Eero Saarinen from 1940-1941. He is considered a major second-generation modernist and is particularly celebrated for his rendering skills as well as his design of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In 1945, Knoll introduced a series of Rapson designs, helping establish the young company as a provider of top-quality modern furniture. Unlike much of the austere furniture of the time, Rapson’s designs were playful and anthropomorphic. For example, he included a rocking chair in the line ― a concept that was almost unheard of in the modern vocabulary.
Rapson taught architecture at the New Bauhaus School from 1942-1946 as well as at MIT from 1946-1954. Additionally he served as the head the Department of Architecture at the Institute of Design, Chicago and the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. For his career contributions, Rapson was recognized with the AIA Gold Medal and the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architecture Education.