Though the US Open has been hosted at its current complex for 50 years, the tournament itself has been going on since 1881, meaning there’s a rich backstory about where and how America’s Grand Slam has evolved. This year marked a new chapter in the tournament's history as the new Louis Armstrong Stadium opened for play, ending a five-year renovation project of the site's currently facilities. Here’s a brief history lesson in the architectural layout and legacy of the world-renowned United States Open Tennis Championships. Luckily for tennis lovers, all of these spaces are still playable today. International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, Rhode Island Perhaps the oldest and most prominent tennis facility in the United States, this ancestral home of the US Open welcomes players from all over the world to its historic grass courts and Victorian-style clubhouse. Formerly named the Newport Casino, the facility was designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1880 and was the center of the city’s society in its heyday. Upon opening, it hosted the first U.S. National Men’s Singles Championship in 1881. When the tournament outgrew its Newport location in 1914, it was relocated to the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, eventually evolving into what we know today as the US Open. When the site was in danger of demolition in the 1950s, it was repositioned as the International Hall of Fame and later became a National Historic Landmark in 1987, preserving a shining example of American shingle-style architecture. West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills, New York This 125-year-old tennis club was founded not long after the Newport Casino opened in Rhode Island. Established in 1892 in its original Upper West Side location, the club built out its current facilities in Forest Hills in order to accommodate its growing membership. The grounds were set within Forest Hills Gardens, a 175-acre community designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Overlooking the courts is a stunning Tudor-style clubhouse built to complement the surrounding Georgian and Tudor homes. The United States Lawn Tennis Association National Championship moved the tournament to the West Side Tennis Club in 1915, where it continued every year until 1977. Today, the club boasts 38 tennis courts of varying surfaces including grass, hard, red clay, and Har-Tru, as well the 13,000-seat Forest Hills Stadium, the country’s first arena featuring a concrete facade. Today, the stadium hosts a celebrated summer music series along with other arts events. A junior Olympic-size swimming pool and paddle tennis courts are also included on site. USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing, New York Located three miles north of the West Side Tennis Club, this 46.5-acre complex has been the current home of the US Open since 1978. It was initially called the USTA National Tennis Center but was later rededicated in 2006 to women’s tennis champion Billie Jean King. The campus is set within Flushing Meadows–Corona Park and today features 33 courts including three mega-arenas: Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium, and the Grandstand. The latter two structures exclusively held the Open matches until Ashe was built in 1977. After rain delays majorly halted play during from 2008 to 2012, the USTA created a master plan to rebrand and solidify the entire complex ahead of the tournament’s 50th anniversary in 2018. This $600 million overhaul included demolishing the 54-year-old Armstrong Stadium, which was originally constructed as the Singer Bowl for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. A new, 14,000-seat structure was built from scratch in its place, opening this summer just in time for play. The multi-year renovation project, led by Detroit-based firm ROSSETTI, also included a new show court for the 8,000-seat Grandstand featuring a translucent skin that wraps around the facility. Most notably, two new PTFE retractable roofs now top Armstrong and the 23,771-seat Ashe Stadium where the major matches are held. The flexible roofing systems, which can open and close in five to seven minutes, now allow games to go on rain or shine.
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Tennis courts may be universally designed in the same way, but their topographic location can change the entire look and feel of playing the great game. In honor of the US Open, we’ve rounded up some of the world’s most architecturally impressive courts. From the ever-imaginative buildings within the United Arab Emirates to the secret spaces of Paris, these amazing athletic facilities placed in unbelievable settings feature inspired designs that date from present day, all the way back to the late 19th century. Take a scroll and let your sporty side roam around the globe with these ace spaces: The Couch, Amsterdam, The Netherlands The IJburg Tennis Club near Amsterdam houses 10 clay courts, a tennis school, and a temporary communal building with integrated rooftop seating designed by Dutch firm MVRDV. Acting as a giant piece of street furniture, the red-sprayed concrete structure features a curvaceous roof that dips down towards ground level on the south side, while the north side rises 23 feet high, allowing for bleacher-like seating overlooking the courts. The wood-clad interior boasts ample natural light thanks to wide glass that spans the front and south sides of the building. Burj Al Arab Tennis Court, Dubai, U.A.E. Twelve years ago, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer held an exhibition on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab, the third tallest hotel in the world. Designed by Tom Wright of WKK Architects, the structure stands like the sail of a ship at 1,053 feet tall. The helipad covers 4,467 square feet of space and a grass court was laid out across it for this one-time match. Since its completion, the site has been home to other iconic sports moments: Golfers Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy teed off of the helipad in separate years while Formula One racecar driver David Coulthard performed donuts on the surface in 2013. Dubai could also soon build the world’s first underwater tennis complex off its coast in the Persian Gulf, a vision by Polish architect Krzysztof Kotala, founder of 8+8 Studio. La Cavalerie Tennis Club, Paris Set on the sixth floor of an art deco building with an Aston Martin dealership at its base, this hidden tennis club sports weathered wood paneling and a dramatic, honeycomb-style arched roof. The building itself, designed by famous French architect R. Farradèche in 1924, includes a close-up view of the Eiffel Tower which can be seen from the balconies of the club. The hard court was established as a national monument in 1986 and features 1,400 pieces of wood that shape the parabolic interior design. Astor Courts, Rhinebeck, New York This private tennis pavilion is situated within the historic upstate guesthouse and casino of John Jacob Astor IV. Designed in 1902 by Stanford White, the indoor and outdoor sports complex included squash courts, a bowling alley, a shooting range, and an indoor swimming pool. It was designed in the style of the Grand Trianon, a château found at Versailles in France. After being purchased by its current owner in 2003 for over $3 million, PBDW Architects rehabilitated the 20,000-square-foot mansion where Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky were married in 2010. Infinity Court, Los Angeles, California Located at the John Lautner-designed Sheats-Goldstein House, this seemingly floating tennis court provides spectacular, sweeping views of Los Angeles. The house is currently owned by the colorful real estate investor, NBA lover, and fashion designer James Goldstein and was recently acquired by the L.A. County Museum of Art as its first-ever architectural acquisition. When Goldstein bought the property in 1972, he began working with Lautner on several updates and additions to the house. The on-site, infinity-edge court was designed atop a three-level entertainment complex built in collaboration with Lautner’s colleague. It features a glass partition barely visible from the other side of the outdoor space. Tennis Courts at the SLS Lux, Miami, Florida Arquitectonica’s design for the just-completed SLS Lux Brickell Hotel and Residences in South Beach includes a multi-use sports center atop the ninth floor of the 57-story tower. Tennis courts, a rock climbing wall, as well as spaces for volleyball, basketball, and more, allow the residents of the building’s 450 luxury condos, 12 penthouses, and 84 hotel rooms an opportunity for ample play. The base of the building features a colorful, 40,000-square-foot mural on its exterior by Fabian Burgos, a world-renowned Argentinian artist who creates optical designs for architecture. Vanderbilt Tennis and Fitness Club, New York City, New York Since the 1960s, a secret has existed within the walls of New York’s famed Grand Central Terminal: It houses a secluded tennis club. For over ten years, city dwellers could pay to play at the original Vanderbilt Athletic Club, founded by Hungarian athlete and refugee Geza Gazdag. The club housed two clay courts and a 65-foot indoor ski slope built on the third-floor Annex of the train depot. Since Gazdag was priced out of his lease, the coveted piece of real estate began a fraught history of ownership. Donald Trump took it over for three decades, turning it into an elite club for the city’s wealthiest tennis fans. Once his lease ran out in 2009, the space became a lounge for the Metropolitan Transit Authority and new courts were built on the fourth floor where current owner Anthony Scholnick manages the facility.
Today tennis takes over the world’s stage with the start of the 2018 US Open. Now in its 50th year, the tournament will play out within the newly renovated USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens. The five-year, $600-million project is now finished with the opening of the site’s final project: the Louis Armstrong Stadium, the world's first naturally ventilated tennis arena with a retractable roof. Over the next two weeks, hundreds of thousands of fans will descend upon the city to watch the final Grand Slam of the year, and while the tennis champions themselves are the real stars of the show, the stadium architecture will be prominently on display. The highly-anticipated renovation marks the end of the site’s fraught history with deteriorating courts and rain delays messing up major events. Designed by Detroit-based firm Rossetti, the new 14,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium evokes the feel of the old arena, which the USTA opened in 1978, but includes modern feats of engineering and sustainable design additions that bring it into the 21st century of sports architecture. The stadium boasts 40 percent more seating than its predecessor in two levels of precast concrete bowls and an advanced shading system that’s anchored by a fixed, cantilevered roof deck. Matches can proceed rain or shine thanks to the masterfully-engineered two-piece, moving roof that covers the court. Called a “complex, stackable sun room” by the architects, the retractable roof features 284,000-pound PTFE fabric panels that create a 38,160-square-foot opening after traveling 25 feet per minute in under seven minutes from the stadium’s edge. The transparent, lightweight fabric diffuses a soft light into the arena when closed, transferring 73 percent of the sun’s energy. The sides of the stadium additionally allow breezes to flow through the facility. Rossetti placed 14,250 overlapping terracotta louvers on the north and south sides of the structure that act as horizontal window blinds. The siding material is a nod to the traditional brick buildings found throughout the tennis grounds. Construction began on the new stadium two years ago when the 52-year-old Armstrong arena was demolished after the 2016 championship. Originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, the structure was much-loved because it gave fans an intimate experience and unbeatable views with sky-high, stacked seating. Louis Armstrong Stadium 2.0, as many are nicknaming it, does the same but with a more porous, contemporary design. Plus, it has a built-in umbrella that ensures consistency of play no matter the weather. To celebrate its opening, Armstrong will hold more matches during the 2018 US Open than its neighboring Arthur Ashe Stadium, an 18,000-seat arena that also received a flexible roofing system during the renovation. Both stadiums will hold two matches at night, but Armstrong will see three during the day while Ashe will host two.
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.
Teddy Roosevelt once remarked on the commercialization of sports: "When money comes in at the gate, the game goes out the window." With Wimbledon in high gear and tennis at the Olympics looming, tennis is getting more than its share of commercial attention lately. Just last month the United States Tennis Association announced it would spend a half billion dollars to upgrade the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Queens, where the U.S. Open is played. The project is linked to the $3 billion Willets Point project. The unabashedly commercial enterprise is somewhat countered by a decidedly democratic project well underway at Crotona Park in the Bronx. There, the nonprofit New York Junior Tennis League, founded by the late Arthur Ashe, and the Parks Department are midway through completing a $22 million international tennis center designed by Peter Gluck and Partners. The Bronx and Queens projects are graphic examples of how a historically exclusive sport has become populist. Nevertheless, McKim, Mead and White's lawn tennis clubs, like the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia, still court old-school patrons with club rooms for bridge and a menu featuring turtle soup. And Dattner Architects' designs for Cordish Family Pavilion at Princeton University brings its own brand of up-to-date elegance back to the game. Regardless of the project, whether its big business in Queens, public/private in the Bronx, private in Princeton, or very private in Philadelphia, tennis architecture seems to have always found a way to allow money in at the gate.