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Monday, October 8, 2012

Football...Rapson and Saarinen style

Sometimes the best stories about designers are the ones that remind us they didn't really inhabit the pedestals we invent for them. They had friends and hobbies and work habits just like the rest of us, and knowing this somehow makes me appreciate the brilliant work they did all the more. One of the most endearing stories I've read lately is on the Rapson-Inc. blog in a post by Caroline Engel.

Engel tells of the friendship that developed between Eero Saarinen and Ralph Rapson when they worked together in Eliel Saarinen's architecture firm while Rapson was a graduate student at Cranbrook.

Rapson, although born with only one arm, loved football and was known to get up a game on beautiful fall afternoons. Nose-to-the-grindstone Eero Saarinen wasn't moved by Rapsons's argument that recreation relieved an architect of stress and allow him to return to his desk refreshed and productive. One day Rapson half-dragged and half-carried his friend to the field. From that day forward, Saarinen declared himself the official quarterback of the team and never missed a game.

You can find the full story in Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design by Jane King Hession, Rip Rapson and Bruce N. Wright (1999, Afton Historical Society Press). Be sure and visit the Rapson-Inc. blog for other posts too. You're in for a treat.


Ralph Rapson (left), Eero Saarinen & Fred James
discussing plans for the College of William and Mary, February 1939
[Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, #4832]

Ralph Rapson running down sideline during touch football game at Cranbrook, 1939.
[Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, #284]


  1. Replies
    1. I thought so too. It so clearly shows the natures of their personalities, as well as the nature of their friendship.

  2. Sad that Saarinen died so young, but his work was the best.