American studio Michael Graves Architecture & Design has created new seats for players, umpires and line judges at the US Open Tennis Championships, which begin this coming week in Queens, New York.
In celebration of the event's 50th anniversary this year, the US Tennis Association (USTA) has unveiled a redesigned logo, player amenities, and court furnishings – the latter of which were designed by Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA&D) and manufactured by Landscape Forms.
Outfitting four courts on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center campus in Flushing – including the main Arthur Ashe Stadium – the custom furniture collection includes player benches, umpire stands, line-judge seating, and "cooler corrals".
The aim is to visually streamline and functionally modernise the home of the US Open – one of four tournaments around the world that form tennis' Grand Slam.
The player bench responds to a number of issues that the previous seating – traditional director's chairs – failed to address. Observing that players often pile up and drape towels, bags, and water bottles on a spare chair and the surrounding floor area, MGA&D developed a bench that provides ample surface area to rest gear, and attached-yet-demountable chair shells with integrated towel bars on the back.
"Seating should express utility, be comfortable, and carry a beautiful personality," said Donald Strum, principal of product design at MGA&D. "The various performance requirements of this collection made the project endlessly fascinating."
Inspired by New York's park benches, the powder-coated steel and aluminium seating sports a contemporary form with a slat-style base and perforated chair shell. Whereas the old chairs' canvas construction resulted in an uncomfortable sweat-retaining seat, the new chair shells enable the players to cool down and rest.
This is thanks to the ventilating perforated pattern, solar-heat dispersing aluminium, and waterfall seat curve at the front. The bench and chair back also offer value by displaying sponsor logos.
Armchairs for the line judges feature a thin-profile, perforated-aluminum design similar to the player seats, but in the tournament's signature blue. The furniture also includes an integrated storage shelf underneath the seat.
Intended to evoke New York City buildings, the new umpire stand is a cantilevered tower-like design that keeps sight lines open for the spectators. It incorporates the latest technology used by umpires, a shading canopy and – like the line-judge seating – a shelf below.
Finally, the cooler corral reimagines the old branded courtside coolers provided for players. Depending on the brand, the previous coolers came in different dimensions, shapes, and colours, presenting a visual mishmash on the court. The new grouping consists of uniform coolers finished in the signature blue, coordinating water dispensers and receptacles, and an additional bench with perforated back.
While only four of the courts will feature the new furniture for this Open, plans are in the works to furnish the remaining courts at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center in time for US Open 2019, according to furniture and lighting manufacturer Landscape Forms.
"The project has brought Landscape Forms full circle with the USTA and the US Open," said Robb Smalldon, the company's executive vice president of development. "The USTA is a long-time client of ours. Our furnishings can be found throughout the tennis campus, and now we've also moved inside the stadiums."
The US Open qualifiers have taken place all last week, while the official tournament runs from 27 August to 9 September 2018. Competitors will include six-time champion Serena Williams, who will sport a kit designed by Virgil Abloh and Nike.
Michael Graves Architecture and Design's eponymous founder – who was an important member of the postmodern movement – died in 2015, but the studio has continued to operate under his moniker.