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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ralph Rapson

I started this blog September 6, 2010. Some of you have been readers since the beginning. Others have come on board later. From now through the end of the month, I'm going to be on a short blogging break. Not only am I in the middle of a big volunteer project, I'm also trying to help get the new store open, so I've decided share some of my favorite posts from the past four years. I'll throw in a few new photos for you longtime supporters who read the posts when they were first published.


(First posted 1/3/2011)
Ralph Rapson (1914-2008) was an architect, designer and entrepreneur. He was educated at the University of Michigan and the Cranbrook Academy of Arts, where he studied under Eliel Saarinen. At Cranbrook he met Florence Schust, who would later marry Hans Knoll and then introduce him to the Knoll company, for which he would design a successful line in the 1940s.

Rapson taught architecture at the New Bauhaus School in Chicago from 1942-1946. He Also taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1946-1954. He is well-known for his experimental concept houses like the 1939 "Cave House" and "Fabric House," and the 1945 "Greenbelt House," which was Arts & Architecture's Case Study House #4. Rapson was the Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota from 1954-1984.

In 1963 he designed the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He also worked for the U.S. Government's Department of Foreign Buildings in the 1950s, after striking a deal that any work he did would be furnished with Knoll furniture. From this period, Rapson is best known for the U.S. Embassy buildings in Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Rapson's furniture designs employed newly developed materials and mass production processes. In 1945 he helped Knoll introduce the 'Equipment for Living' series of furniture. The program was commissioned by the Kellett Aircraft Corporation, who requested that the pieces be made of metal. Rapson's line featuring a tea trolley, side table and lounge proved to be extremely successful, and Knoll created 'Thermalware' accessories like cocktail shakers and ice buckets to accompany the furniture. Knoll then released the Rapson Line in 1945, which included the now-classic "Rapson Rocker."  Knoll sold the playful, organic line to Bloomingdale's in 1945, who then took out a full page advertisement for the rocker in the New York Times, touting it as a modern take on a traditional piece.

Throughout the 1950s, Rapson and his wife Mary had a store, Rapson, Inc., in Boston. The couple sold Rapson's furniture, as well as George Nelson furniture and objects, Harry Bertoia jewelry and pieces from both the Knoll and Herman Miller collections. They also imported pieces that they found to be integral to the energy of modern design like porcelain from Germany and Marimekko textiles from Finland.

From r20thcentury.com and rapsonarchitects.com



Slide cart
rapsonarchitects.com

Slide rocker
rapsonarchitects.com 

Slide sofa and chairs
rapsonarchitects.com

Variation of slide rocker
rapsonarchitects.com

Ralph Rapson's personal Rapid Rocker
rapson-inc.com

Slide lounge
rapsonarchitects.com

Slide lamps
rapsonarchitects.com

Slide lamp sketches
rapsonarchitects.com

Highback Greenbelt rock
rapson-inc.com

Gidwitz House
archpaper.com

Butler House
ncmodernist.org

Schecter House (House of Doors)
ncmodernist.org

casasugar.com

Monday, October 20, 2014

Isamu Noguchi

I started this blog September 6, 2010. Some of you have been readers since the beginning. Others have come on board later. From now through the end of the month, I'm going to be on a short blogging break. Not only am I in the middle of a big volunteer project, I'm also trying to help get the new store open, so I've decided share some of my favorite posts from the past four years. I'll throw in a few new photos for you longtime supporters who read the posts when they were first published.

(First posted 9/23/2010)


Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was born in Los Angeles, the son of an Irish-American mother and a Japanese father.  He spent his childhood in Japan and his adolescence and adulthood in the United States, and for the rest of his life, he was at home in both places.

Noguchi moved to New York to become a pre-med student at Columbia University, where he also enrolled in a sculpture class.  Art won out, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1927 led to an apprenticeship in the studio of Constantin Brancusi.  When he returned to New York, associations with technological visionary Buckminster Fuller and choreographer Martha Graham allowed him to explore new facets of his talent.

His first widely distributed design was the Radio Nurse of 1937, and the later Guardian Ear, an object containing a microphone, would pick up sounds from a child’s room.  In 1944 he revised a design he had created to illustrate the George Nelson article “How to Make a Table.” The biomorphic coffee table was put into production in 1947 by Herman Miller and became one of his best-known works.

His famous three-legged cylinder lamp was first made as a gift for his sister in 1944 or 1945.  He began designing his beautiful Akari lamps in 1951, which are still manufactured in Gifu, Japan, by the same company that began producing them in the early 1950s.  His wire and wood rocking stools were designed in 1953, and in 1957 Hans Knoll enlarged the small stool to the full-size Cyclone Table as a companion piece to Harry Bertoia’s wire chairs.

From the Fifties on, Noguchi’s focus was on what he called “the sculpture of spaces,” and he designed gardens, playgrounds and plazas.

From the essay “Isamu Noguchi: Art Into Life” by Bruce Altshuler on noguchi.org
Photos from noguchi.org.



Isamu Noguchi, 1951

Bakelite Radio Nurse, 1937
Manufactured by the Zenith Radio Company

Cloud sofa and ottoman, c. 1948
Manufactured by Herman Miller

Custom beech table for William A. M. Burden, 1948

Rocking Stools, 1955
Manufactured by Knoll

Coffee table, 1944
Manufactured by Herman Miller

Cyclone table, 1957
Manufactured by Knoll

Akari floor lamps, 1950s
Manufactured in Gifu, Japan

My favorite photo of Noguchi
noguchi.org


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As a sidenote, our Noguchi rocking stool will be included in the Wright auction to be held October 23. Remember how it looked when we got it?


Our Noguchi rocking stool (before)


Now here it is in the Wright catalog, all clean and shiny and ready for a new home. Wish us luck!