January 23, 2012
Ralph Rapson, a Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate and architect who designed the Rapson Line for Knoll in 1945, is profiled in the Winter 2012 issue of Modernism magazine, the quarterly magazine about 20th-century modernist design.
Rapson, who met Florence Knoll, (née Schust) while they were both students at Cranbrook, became the first Cranbrook alumnus invited to design for Knoll.
After completing her architectural studies with Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Florence Knoll joined the Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company and established the Planning Unit in 1943. "When the Company sought cutting-edge American designers to create core collections, Schust knew Cranbrook was the place to find them."
"Rapson became the first Cranbrook alumnus invited by Schust to design for Knoll; Cranbrook community members Bertoia, Eero Saarinen and Strengell would alter join the firm's stable of designers."
The Rapson Line, which initially debuted at New York City's Bloomingdale's department store, "was promoted nationally in a series of innovative ads designed by graphic artist Alvin Lustig."
Modernism magazine writer, Jane King Hession, notes: "Though Lustig's ads were graphically strong, it is Rapson's drawings that most persuasively telegraph the functionally and comfort of his chairs."
"For Rapson, it was not enough that a chair be admired for its inventiveness and beauty alone; its form must derive from its function; to receive the human body with utility, comfort and support."