Paris – The main attraction at the Forum des Halles was, undeniably, the dunking skills of Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell. That summer day, Adidas had decked out the floor under the shopping centre’s canopy in an eye-catching chequered pattern, with a matching pink-and-purple matching hoop board. The whole setup bore little resemblance to the sparsely monochrome hardwood courts generally used by the NBA.
But to design fans, the actual main attraction was a bit more elusive but far more meaningful: off to the side was an odd-looking but beautifully intriguing installation in the same palette, featuring steel half-tubes, arches and hooks in an apparently intricate flow to nowhere. The set looked nothing like the traditionally masculine and roughly angular installations basketball is known for – this sensual treat for the eyes would, in theory, look more at home at the nearby Pompidou. But in reality, the tilting and twisting structures were carefully calculated by Döppel Studio, a local design duo. The goal? To give amateur athletes the chance to shoot hoops into something that looks decidedly different than a traditional basket – thus challenging their motor, creative and lateral-thinking capacities on the spot.
‘For basketball players, aim, speed and instinct are indispensable… so we offered them a revisited training course, made up of totemic forms and kinetic facilities inspired by a labyrinth of balls,’ explained Döppel’s Jonathan Omar. ‘So it was a new grammar of shapes and colours, but gravity and balance were still the rules of the game.’
This court glow-up might be a spatial consequence of the LeBron effect
This is, no doubt, quite a visually elevated response to a sport that has for long remained on the unglamorous side of design. Nevertheless, this court glow-up might be a spatial consequence of the LeBron effect: famously, King James singlehandedly turned the arena arrival hallway into an advertising channel for upmarket fashion and tech wearables brands – his Thom Browne and Beats by Dre deals are still the stuff of product-placement mythology.