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Design by Ralph Rapson, 1939.
Made in North Carolina by Rapson-Inc.
Ralph Rapson sketched the first version of his bentwood rocker in 1939 while studying and working at Cranbrook Academy of Art under Eliel Saarinen and Charles Eames. However, his designs were set aside because of wartime restrictions on plywood, a crucial material often used in aircraft. In 1950 Ralph and his wife, Mary Rapson, commissioned a small number of the bentwood rockers for sale at their own modern furnishings store, Rapson-Inc., in Boston.
In 2002 Ralph Rapson made some slight modifications to his original design, with an emphasis on support and ease of entry/exit, and Rapson Architects brought the Rapson® Rapid Rocker back into small batch production. Today Rapson-Inc., a family owned company, continues to produce the Rapson® Rapid Rocker as Ralph designed, with updated finish and fabric options.
With a strong maple-ply frame and sculpted, cantilevered arms, the Rapson® Rapid Rocker is both visually striking and supremely comfortable, providing an easy, smooth rock. The double-backed, foam-cushioned, form-fitting seat provides ample support to the back and neck, often earning this iconic rocker the designation of "most comfortable seat in the house."
The Rapson® Rapid Rocker is made of laminated American Maple with a Natural or Cocoa finish. The highly durable, wool-like olefin fabric, woven using wind power, is exceptionally long-wearing and stain resistant. All padding is low-VOC and incorporates plant-based foam. Six fabric colors available.
The Rapson® Rapid Rocker, first designed by Ralph Rapson in 1939, was out of production for over fifty years. Reintroduced in 2002, the Rapson® Rapid Rocker is now made in North Carolina by Rapson-Inc., a family-owned company. Made of laminated American Maple in a Natural or Cocoa finish, upholstered in your choice of six colors.
Material(s): Laminated American maple, olefin fabric
Dimensions: 26" W X 32.5" D X 41" H
Designer: Ralph Rapson
Ralph Rapson's accomplishments in architecture and design span 70 years, connecting the defining events and personalities of American Modernism. He earned architecture degrees at the University of Michigan, and at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He taught architecture at the New Bauhaus School (now IIT Institute of Design) from 1942–46, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1946-54. He was head of the architecture school at the University of Minnesota from 1954–84. His furniture is in the collections of major modern art and design museums and his buildings are coveted for their masterful use of space, light, and line.
Ralph Rapson grew up drawing all the time with his left hand (his right arm was amputated due to a birth defect). His imaginative, skillful drafting drew the attention of Eliel Saarinen and landed him a scholarship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. There, working with Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Florence Schust (Knoll), Rapson was known for his creativity and his deft, lively drawings of furniture and buildings. He was a prolific sketch artist and kept volumes of sketchbooks from his world travels.
After working with the Saarinens at their architecture firm, teaching and studying at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and winning multiple architecture contests, Rapson's accomplishments in 1945-1950 helped define the direction of Mid-Century Modernism in America. His 1945 Rapson® Line for H.G. Knoll marked the emergence of the modern aesthetic into the mainstream of post-war life, while his 1945 Rapson Greenbelt™ House (Case Study #4) remains a primary influence on the design of modern houses that unify light, nature, and active living. In 1950 Ralph Rapson and his wife Mary opened their store, Rapson-Inc., revolutionizing the sale of modern goods by bringing furnishings, housewares, and textiles into a single, design-centered shop.
Throughout a long and successful career as an award-winning architect and teacher, Ralph Rapson kept imagining and drawing new furniture designs. In 'retirement', he began to reintroduce old designs while still creating new ones. After overseeing the redesign and reintroduction of the Rapson® Rapid Rocker in 2002, he went on to win the Dwell Lounge design competition in 2007 — at age 92. Since his death in 2008, his family has continued to oversee small batch production of his designs.View other products by Ralph Rapson
In 1950, there were very few shops in the U.S. that sold modern furniture and design. Ralph and Mary Rapson wanted to change that. While Ralph selected the designs and worked his day job as a practicing architect and architecture professor at MIT, Mary worked tirelessly on the many details of opening a new store for modern design. Rapson-Inc. opened in 1950, just a block off Copley Square in the heart of Boston. Rapson-Inc. showcased not only Rapson's own designs (rockers, especially) but also the designs of Ralph's Cranbrook Academy of Art colleagues. Together, these designs — by Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and others — continue to define good modern design more than 60 years later.
In the late 1990s, Toby Rapson, AIA, Ralph's youngest son and business partner at Rapson Architects, began working with Ralph and other members of the firm to resurrect Rapson furniture designs. In 2002, they reintroduced an updated, taller version of the bentwood rockers Ralph had first drawn at Cranbrook in 1939. Following Ralph's death in 2008, Toby separated the furniture design business from the architecture firm. Today, Rapson-Inc., a family-owned company, once again uses Ralph and Mary's bow-tie Rapson-Inc. logo, faithfully and responsibly producing furniture in the U.S.A. from the large design library that Ralph Rapson left behind.