To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA&D) teamed up with Landscape Forms to redesign the courtside furniture that takes center stage during the upcoming two-week tournament. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) unveiled its sleek new “courtscape” earlier this week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, Queens.
The new furniture, a collection featuring seating for the players, umpires, and line judges, as well as a “cooler corral,” is part of the US Open’s major rebranding effort. Not only were the designs created to maximize ease of use for those on the court, they speak to the organization’s goal of making a modern, iconic look for the tournament and its New York location.
Before crafting the collection, MGA&D met with everyone involved in the US Open from players to officials, fans, sponsors, broadcast partners, and tech crews. Through their research, the design team concluded that the furniture must address three primary goals: visibility, usability, and functionality. As inspiration for the design, they took nods from the landscape of New York City such as its park benches (seen in the player’s seating) and the cantilevered balconies found on buildings (seen on the umpire stand).
MGA&D used virtual reality technology to help USTA stakeholders realize their vision. The team then worked with Michigan-based Landscape Forms, who specializes in high-design site furniture and advanced LED lighting, on the engineering and manufacturing of the collection. The group’s custom division, Studio 431, created seating products with thin profiles and graceful curves using perforated steel and aluminum surfaces as the primary materials. These lightweight but durable products are now prominently featured on four of the show courts at the tennis center in Queens.
Donald Strum, MGA&D principal of product design, helped lead the project. He said this unique opportunity to create a courtscape for the USTA was one of the most satisfying projects he’s ever worked on. “Seating should express utility, be comfortable, and carry a beautiful personality as well,” said Strum in a statement. “The various performance requirements of this collection made the project endlessly fascinating.”
All the courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will be outfitted with the new furniture next year ahead of the 2019 championship.