When the US Open—one of four Grand Slam tournaments of the tennis world—took place this summer in Queens, New York, all eyes were on the game of course, but some spectators may have also spotted the players’ sleek new courtside digs. Conceived for the 50th anniversary of the tournament, the new furniture was designed by Michael Graves Architect & Design and manufactured by Landscape Forms.
Gone are the flimsy and impractical director’s chairs players used in tournaments past: They weren’t made for accommodating player gear; the canvas seats accumulated sweat; and they were just plain uncomfortable. MGA&D’s solution pairs a streamlined blue bench with demountable seats that have cascading fronts for comfort. “The final design is at once a nod to the ubiquitous Central Park bench and an expression of the fluid athleticism of the players,” explains Donald Strum, principal of product design at MGA&D.
Constructed of steel and aluminum—powder-coated in US Open blue and white—the bench elements comprise the seats, perforated to help the player cool down; ample surface areas at either side of the seats to hold bags, water bottles, and accessories; and an integrated towel bar cut right into the seat back. Seats and benches also sport branding for sponsors, in this case Polo Ralph Lauren, as does the floor-protection mat underneath.
Ensuring a clean, cohesive design for every match at the USTA stadiums, MGA&D designed the other courtside furnishings such as secondary seating for line judges or other relevant participants. These are in a complementary blue powder-coated perforated metal and sit beside the coolers, which were also revamped to make them uniform in size, shape, and color. Naturally, the umpire stand was part of the package too, and for this the design team looked to the New York City building landscape as inspiration. MGA&D devised a matching blue cantilevered design to keep the space below it unobstructed for the spectators.