Minnesota Design: Tracing Architect and Designer Ralph Rapson’s Reign

For over five decades, the Modernist architect was the driving force for design in Minnesota.
Ralph Rapson Influence Minnesota Design

Ralph Rapson Courtesy Rapson Architects

For its March 2018 issue, Metropolis Magazine explored the three great North American design regions: The Pacific Northwest, North Carolina, and Minnesota. We looked at each area’s deep historic connections to architecture and design, as well as the contemporary practices thriving there today. Stay tuned to our homepage as March issue articles such as this one go online; you can also find the latest updates here.


Ralph Rapson was not a native Minnesotan—he was born in Michigan in 1914—yet it is hard to find another individual who has had as far-reaching an influence on the state’s design culture. A nationally respected architect with international projects under his belt by midcentury, he turned down the directorship of the Institute of Design in Chicago and moved to Minneapolis to head the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture from 1954 to 1984.

Outside the classroom, he shaped the cityscapes of Minneapolis and St. Paul through his buildings and as an adviser to various municipal agencies. Furniture was a lifelong passion—at age 93 he entered a furniture design competition and won. When he passed away in 2008, he was among the world’s oldest practicing architects.

You may also enjoy “Minnesota Design: Uncovering Minnesota’s Influential Modernist Past.”

Categories: Architecture, Design, Furniture