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Photo by: Nicole Pereira/USTA
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the US Open, the United States Tennis Association hired Michael Graves Architecture & Design to reimagine the Tournament’s on-court furniture to launch America’s Grand Slam toward its next 50 years. The project included new player seating, chair umpire stand, line judge seating, and the “cooler corral” located against the wall behind the players. The goal for the project was to design a courtscape that is iconic to the US Open without overshadowing the action on the court; the true star of the tournament.
At the start of the project, MGA&D’s design team met with the various US Open stakeholders to fully understand and map out the technical and user experience requirements for each piece of furniture. Our research gave great insights to establish the guiding principles but also presented the challenge of balancing the stakeholders’ diverse wants and needs. The project timeline was aggressive and required finished products to be delivered less than 8 months after kick-off for the four main show courts. We needed to establish a partnership with an experienced industry leader who could manufacture the pieces with both expediency and a high level of quality. Fortunately for us and the USTA, Landscape Forms Studio 431 was the ideal manufacturing partner.
Outfitting only the 4 televised “show” courts for the anniversary year allowed us to meet the deadline and permitted us to learn from the products, test them during the tournament, and improve them for next year where we would have enough time to outfit the remaining 13 courts. After the 2018 tournament, the USTA, MGA&D and Landscape Forms Studio 431 held a design charrette at the Tennis Center, where all items were set up for critical inspection. We identified and catalogued all of the areas for improvement. We sketched out alternatives right there on site.
And for 2019 we rolled out all new furniture, not greatly different from the first round, but full of improvements. The line judge chairs were 30% lighter and much more comfortable. The players benches were lighter, easier to clean, easier to assemble, and included a solution for ice-towels for the players. We also simplified the construction to bring the cost down on everything. The umpire stand saw many subtle improvements, a lighter fabric canopy, improved seating ergonomics, deeper ladder rungs that were easy to see when descending, and doors on the base that wouldn’t interfere with the camera pole. We also included more potential camera mounting points to make the items more future proof. Can you spot the changes on each piece?