A day after the announcement of Ralph Rapson's death (at age 93 on Saturday), people continue to reflect on his legacy. Bob Roscoe, historic preservationist with Design for Preservation, e-mailed me his thoughts:
"Of all the bright stars in the local firmament of architects, by far the brightest and longest shining, has been Ralph Rapson. Space, that intangible aspect of built enclosure that architects shape, was defined with no greater grace and spirit than by Rapson in the heyday of modernism. His work became guiding principles for the local community of practicing and aspiring architects during his very long career, and his reputation has been known worldwide. What most Minnesotans are not aware of is his architectural projects far from here, such as a housing complex on the Charles River in Boston, embassies in Stockholm and Copenhagen, embassy staff apartments in Paris, a University of California Santa Cruz Performing Arts Center and many others.
"What is well known by Minnesotans, and once much loved, is his spectacular design for the Tyrone Guthrie Theater on Vineland Place in Minneapolis. For a building that could be seen and experienced in its many complexities from various, if not an infinite number of viewpoints, its function as a place for performance evoked the essence of simplicity — in drawing the spectator into the art being created on stage amidst the shroud of dark just beyond. Its razing by the Walker Art Center will long remain a tragedy, of real proportions more poignant than those of the Shakespearean vogue — or the plaints of Mance Liscomb and other blues musicians who performed there."
Yesterday, I wrote an obituary on Rapson for The Bridge, a monthly newspaper that covers Southeast Minneapolis and other nearby neighborhoods. Today, the Pioneer Press reports that the family hasn't finalized funeral plans yet and that UM College of Design Dean Thomas Fisher will deliver a lecture on Rapson's career at 7 p.m. at the Minneapolis Central Library. (Photo of the Rapson Cube courtesy of Architectural Digest)
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