A transformational design to redefine the benchmark for sporting venues
The realisation of a dream
Chairman, Victoria Racing Club
In this short film, Victoria Racing Club Chairman Amanda Elliott explains how The Club Stand is a realisation of a dream for her, with additional commentary from Bates Smart Directors, Kristen Whittle and Jeff Copolov.
Introduction by Victoria Racing Club Chairman, Amanda Elliott
Chairman, Victoria Racing Club
There has never been a more exciting year for the Victoria Racing Club.
Six years ago, we set out to build a new members stand that would not only celebrate the incredible rich heritage and character of the VRC, but would also evolve the race day experience, and change the expectations of a day at the races forever.
We knew it was important to replace the 92-year-old Robertson and Marks stand, which had served the Club so well, with something that was going to be a ‘game-changer’ for the VRC… a new stand that would raise the bar dramatically for the Club, and put it in a league of its own world wide.
The new Club Stand does just that. It redefines the benchmark for quality in sporting and entertainment venues, enhancing Flemington’s reputation as the world’s top racing destination. Aspiration is an important element of the VRC brand, and this building is just that - aspirational.
This beautiful building is about the future – a place for current and future patrons to enjoy the famous Flemington hospitality.
Cup Week sees Melbourne hum in spring and it unites the nation like no other sporting event, capturing the imagination of more than 750 million people globally. At the centre of it all is the sport of racing and the heritage-listed Flemington Racecourse.
Bates Smart has done an outstanding job delivering the architecture and interior design of this complex $128 million structure.
The vision has been realised and we are thrilled to see that The Club Stand is now officially open.
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A new benchmark in stadium typology
Rachael McCarthy + Denisa Syrova
Associate Directors, Bates Smart
While close to the hearts of many, the old Victorian era Club Stand was constrained to the race day experience of old. Patrons were forced to choose between either viewing the race from the outer stadium seating, or enjoying the dining offer within, with no direct view of the race track. With limited seats and limited food and beverage offer, the internal experience was available to few and did not account for the needs of the varied membership group.
Sentimentality aside, a bold vision for a new Club Stand representing the aspirational nature of VRC membership, the iconic nature of the Melbourne Cup Carnival and a contemporary and enviable race day experience was formed:
"The Club Stand eloquently embodies the virtues of the Flemington spirit.
"It heightens the expectation and the pageantry above the normal. It acknowledges history, saluting what has gone before and inspiring excited anticipation about what is yet to come. It defines a member experience unsurpassed anywhere in the world."
Amanda Elliott, Chairman, Victoria Racing Club.
The design that followed this visionary brief was not only the architectural embodiment of the joy and spectacle of the Flemington experience, it was also based on highly analytical foundations.
As part of the briefing process, the team invested a vast amount of time to research and analytical studies. This initial process created a strong bond between the architects and the VRC team, which was essential for creating this extraordinary building.
Our team members immersed themselves in the Spring Racing Carnival to observe and collect data about visitor movement patterns and operations. Arup conducted pedestrian modelling on existing conditions, which served as a base for testing the design work to follow. The later design has been scrutinised throughout the design phases through real-time modelling of pedestrian movements. Arrival and entry points, central lobby zones and circulation within the venues have been laid-out to ensure visitor comfort, security and safety at peak periods.
Image: Current and future quantities of dining and race view seating were studied, targeting significant increases and providing sight lines to dining seats in all possible cases.
Sight lines were studied as part of the design process and verified by Arup's team on the final design. The analysis included a review of the profile, viewing comfort analysis, and sightline obstruction analysis for each selected interval on the track not only for the external seating and standing areas, but also for zones within the venues. The design has been optimised to achieve the best possible viewing standards.
Image: Sightline study of existing stand
Member profiles were studied in great depth to ensure that the food and beverage offer, service and operational offer was specifically tailored to the needs and aspirations of the membership group.
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Designs for Life
Director, Bates Smart
Interior Design Director and Design Institute of Australia’s Hall of Fame inductee, Jeff Copolov, shares the design vision for The Club Stand, and how it will remain relevant for both current and future generations of race-goers:
"The Club Stand exudes a strong sense of stateliness and grandeur, as expected from such a prestigious Club.
"A clear and philosophical design strategy has been delivered by our team that reads from the outside in. A key driver for the design was to create opportunities to improve the views of the race-track, while also allowing the floorplate to remain flexible in order to accommodate any alternations or future needs.
"Our approach ensured that the well-defined architectural language of the exterior was continued internally. The flexible and timeless quality of the interior was achieved by considering the spaces like stage sets, which could be ‘plugged’ into the shell and given distinct personalities and create a theatrical experience.
"The internal decorative elements of The Club Stand respond to the base building architecture which has visible and clearly designed elements, and this creates a seamless flow.
The principle white ceilings are curved to mimic the underside and the balconies of the external façade bringing the architectural expression within.
"The perimeter of The Club Stand features floor-to-ceiling glazing, which acts like frameless walls. This concept is brought inside as curved full-height glass helps to divide the spaces, yet at the same time enables clear visibility throughout the building.
"Perimeter columns have deliberately been kept white and are incorporated into the food and beverage elements to ensure internal legibility. On occasions, seating has been wrapped around the white columns to continue the seamless flow. Ceiling coffers have also been installed and are carefully illuminated.
"Within this theatre, each individual venue has been given its own signature personality and a unique name inspired by the horse racing tradition. The entry doors are treated like signposts welcoming guests into the energetic restaurant or bar experience.
"A timeless palette has been applied to create an elegant backdrop that speaks to the VRC’s rich and proud heritage. Onto this canvas, we have amplified each individual venue with a distinct and diverse personality to appeal to the varying needs and moods of Members.
"Carpets and flooring draws inspiration from the fashion adorned by Members during race meetings, with tartan, plaid, houndstooth, stripes and floral prints introduced into the various venues.
"The corners of the interior spaces are also carefully positioned to face the Winning Post, with low seating offering uninterrupted and enhanced views of the track.
'We are extremely proud to deliver The Club Stand and see its continued evolution as a holistic venue able to cater various functions – from private receptions, corporate events and even night-time racing – it truly offers Melbournians an unrivalled hospitality experience."
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An architectural history of the home of the Melbourne Cup
“The first care of the pioneers is to mark out the site of the cemetery, the second to plan a racecourse,” recorded journalist Ernest Buley in 1905.
In this fascinating article, writers Paul Roberts and Isabelle Taylor uncover the architectural history of Flemington, from the arrival of the first British fleet onwards including the 1873 stand known as "Bagot's Cowshed".
Image shows the 'Finish of the 1885 Melbourne Cup' at Flemington via the State Library of Victoria.
A strong sculptural presence to capture the spirit of racing
Director, Bates Smart
Flemington’s new Club Stand is a celebration of the history,character and joy of Flemington and the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), home to the annual Melbourne Cup.
It provides a new home for VRC Members, a place to continue the long and rich traditions associated with thoroughbred racing at this famous location.
Design Director, Kristen Whittle explains his approach to The Club Stand project.
"In contrast to traditional sports stadia, The Club Stand presents itself in the round. In doing so it captures the spirit of the promenading which enhances enjoyment of a day at the races. The sweeping curvilinear forms promote this unique movement and energy.
"Our intention was to reinvent the nature of a horse-racing stand, to comprehensively reinvent what it meant to be there on race day and to reinvent the types of experiences that would be on offer to Members.
"The design acknowledges site context in which the theatre of horse racing is played out on all sides - Mounting Yard, track and Members Lawn to the south; Parade Ring and day stalls to the east; Betting Ring to the north; existing grandstands and Winning Post to the west.
"While the new Club Stand occupies virtually the same footprint as the former grandstand, it provides increased capacity and more diverse venues and facilities in response to contemporary expectations. For race-goers the new building ensures an enhanced experience with improved hospitality offerings, internal circulation and amenities. Operationally, the building provides staff and caterers with state-of-the-art facilities to ensure that safe and efficient services support the member experience.
"The spaces inside the building are to be imbued with a sense of history without feeling beholden to it - featuring elements of the past, but interpreted with clean and sophisticated lines in a modern style and using warm materials.The story of Flemington Racecourse and the VRC is woven into the fabric of the building through material, pattern, pictorial and artefact reference and displays.
"The Club Stand is designed to build on the existing heritage at Flemington, and in turn to be an iconic part of the heritage of Flemington’s future."
Image: Justin McManus/Fairfax Syndication
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Kristen Whittle Shares the journey
Director, Bates Smart
Kristen Whittle looks back over the past five years of working on The Club Stand project to answer a few questions for Journal.
Let’s talk about the brief, how much creative freedom were you given by the Victoria Racing Club?
It was very clear to everyone in the beginning that there was an opportunity to do a world-first with this project. There was a huge ambition present that came from the Board and also from Victoria Racing Club Chairman, Amanda Elliott. We jumped into this project absorbing all of that energy and in a sense it translated into the form of the building. The Board had such profound knowledge of what they wanted but also left the doors open as to how that could manifest.
Our job was to capture the nuances, the pragmatics, the budget and roll it into a piece that was made-to-measure for Flemington, something comprehensively new and completely innovative in terms of what it meant for horse racing worldwide.
Can you describe your creative process?
With a serious piece like this you've got to have a certain amount of introspection. I think there's a sort of honesty and authenticity that you're tapping into and projects such as this require you to invent something from the heart, from your gut, so in a sense it starts with immersion and dialogue. Through conversations with Amanda Elliott, experiencing Flemington, and allowing that to mix and meld together, thoughts start to move around and then when you start drawing and working out the pragmatic aspects of how view lines and relationships between buildings work, it snaps together into a kind of philosophy. That's just part of the magic of designing and part of the magic of creating stuff, because half of it is rational and half of it is irrational and very guttural and instinctive and that is very much the case with this project.
The oval shape of the building is not typical in horse racing stadia, can you explain the thinking behind it?
The oval form of the building, both in plan and shape, resolved a lot of the key problems for the site’s location. It is on one end of the array of stadiums, putting it at some distance away from the finishing line, but it is surrounded by activity, including the Mounting Yard, the Parade Ring and the Members Lawn, the ovaloid form helped to capture those ceremonial moments.
Transparency is also fundamental, wherever the public are you want to be able to open up the views out of the building, to grasp hold of those key moments: the starting gate, the complete view of the track, the finishing line as well as the wonderful overall context. So, clarity, transparency and simplicity were the key factors in the design of the building.
Is it fair to say you set out to design an ‘iconic’ building?
We wanted to design something that was going to be strong, memorable and symbolic - I don't really like to use the term iconic - because iconic is something that time and memory projects onto the building. Our initial thought processes determined a very distinctive and clear rationale that resolved functional problems but also created a very beautiful object. The syncopation of those two worlds gives the shape purpose. It is that clarity and strength that I think will give the building a lot of power into the future and will give it an endurance for the next fifty to one hundred years.
Bates Smart and the Victoria Racing Club both have long histories, did you see some synergy in that lineage?
There are so many crossovers in the long history of our practice and the history of Flemington, it generated a rich dialogue and rapport that was much examined.
We undertook a study trip to the Champagne region of France with the team from Pernod Ricard. The three brands, each with a unique historic lineage, collaborated to create the world's first champagne bar for GH Mumm; that was a highly memorable experience for us. I think history in today's world is often overlooked, in the context of a city, those profound, poetic moments that a city can give you are becoming increasingly hard to come by and even harder to generate.
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Design Process | Immersion and Dialogue
Director, Bates Smart
Kristen Whittle has assembled a series of images that both informed the creative vision for The Club Stand and defined the design language of the architecture and interiors.
Kristen comments: "As design architects our work is to invent the creative concept for the whole building; its meaning, its planning, its shaping, its materiality, its expression and the way it functions. This unique design language defines the nature of the building, how it harmonises with the public realm and how it upholds the lineage of the Victoria Racing Club."
Building an Icon with Multiplex
Regional Managing Director, Multiplex Victoria
Landmark projects require an experienced team to deliver a project on time and to budget.
Associate Director, Stephen Davies was responsible for the delivery of The Club Stand to ensure it was ready for ‘the race that stops the nation’.
Through his career, Stephen has been the Project Architect for some of Melbourne’s most iconic and award-winning developments, he sat down with Regional Managing Director of Multiplex Victoria, Graham Cottam, to reflect on the completion of the $128 million project.
Congratulations on completing The Club Stand. Describe the key features of the build process – what considerations are made before commencing construction of a building designed of this scale and ensuring it is delivered on time and to budget?
With any project, especially one of such a high-caliber as The Club Stand, putting in place an extensive safety and risk management plan is key. Prior to construction commencing, it was critical that we collaborated with the design team and all parties involved to develop an on-site safety risk management program to identify and eliminate safety risks. This project saw over 400 workers on site during peak construction, so implementing safety methods and establishing strong relationships with the other stakeholders was critical.
What was the most challenging part about the construction process?
One of the most challenging aspects of the construction process was the installation of the signature feature ‘petal’ projections which form the perimeter of The Club Stand at each floor. These projections were constructed using 90 precast panels, each weighing up to 30 tonnes.
Approximately 1,500 tonnes of steel were used during construction with one tower crane and up to six mobile cranes on-site each day during the main structural steel construction period.
Working in a ‘live’ horse training environment at such an iconic venue was also always going to present a challenge. We had to ensure that we scheduled works around noise restrictions and, naturally, that we kept out of the way of punters on race days.
Tell us about any key innovations that The Club Stand features. Is this becoming standard across your projects?
One of the main innovations in this project that also translates to other major construction projects such as office buildings, apartments, hotels and hospitals is connectivity.
An external walkway wraps around The Club Stand on the first floor linking it to the Members Grandstand and Parade Ring. Further connectivity is provided with a corridor forming the heart of the new Club Stand and joining it to the Betting Ring, with the Members Lawn and Mounting Yard. The way the outdoor spaces meet the indoor spaces is also seamless with the Members Lawn linked to function spaces on Level One by a grand sloping tier of seating encompassing viewing platforms and gardens.
We were able to seamlessly connect these spaces and execute the architect’s vision using 3D modelling. This method is becoming standard across our key projects as it shows a clear vision of the finished project and further coordinates the architecture, design and construction process.
We have had the pleasure of working with Multiplex across numerous projects for many years. How important is the relationship between an architecture and interior design practice and the builder in ensuring the design vision becomes a reality?
We see collaboration as the key to success on all of our projects, particularly with architects.
The architectural vision is the driving force behind every project and also what makes it unique. We work together with architects to deliver this vision, striving for “outperformance” in terms of building efficiency and to maintain design integrity.
This collaborative relationship enables us to rapidly problem solve and rise to challenges during the construction period and ensure we deliver future-proof buildings for clients.
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Inspired by Reims
Director, Bates Smart
The Mumm Champagne Bar was the landmark destination for celebration at Flemington this Melbourne Cup Carnival. As the brand’s first bar in the southern hemisphere, patrons experienced the true art of champagne in a vibrant, contemporary interior, which evokes the heightened energy of the race.
Bates Smart and the Victoria Racing Club travelled to Reims, France – the countryside city known as the champagne region – to visit Maison Mumm and learn from the leaders of the iconic heritage brand, who have been ‘Serious about Champagne’ since 1827.
Here, they experienced firsthand the unique art of producing methode champenoise, which involves aging and turning the wine on inclined riddling racks, deep in the champagne house’s underground chalk cellars. This technique is referenced in the celebratory display of gold magnums at The Club Stand which creates a towering, gilded backdrop for the sculptural black gloss bars.
“Similar to the theatre set, the bars are designed to act as the focal point of the stage, with service staff as the players performing the act of opening and serving champagne. Back-of-house entries are deliberately door-less with food service hidden to ensure the vibrancy and celebratory nature of the champagne is always on display,” says Jeff Copolov.
Guests are greeted at both the main and rear entry points by the Mumm brand’s coat of arms, adorned with its stately eagle. The venue features two main bars, each facing their respective entry doors to appropriately activate or maximise the space, depending on the guest capacity. A secluded betting pavilion is available for racedays.
Inspired by the iconic Mumm champagne bottle, a 70-metre-long signature Mumm red ribbon weaves through the space. Doubling as a lighting installation, the ribbon celebrates the brand’s celebrated ‘cordon rouge’ sash. This remarkable installation is visible from every key vantage point within The Club Stand – including upon arrival at the grand staircase, outside from the Members Lawn and when entering from the Bridge Link.
“We really pushed the boundaries with using the signature red sash as the key accent – it has never been applied in this way before and we really challenged the Mumm team to allow us to create what is a physical manifestation of their brand lock-up. The ribbon-like installation literally mirrors the angle of the sash of the bottle,” says Copolov.
Inspired by dynamic sculptural works of art, the three distinct furniture clusters are accented by the rich jewel-like colours of plum and magenta, creating opportunities for patrons to socialise within this intriguing ‘landscape’ without interrupting views of the track. The bar also features an openable façade on both the trackside and outdoor terrace.
The bars and soft furnishings are fluid with energetic, non-repeating forms. The central seating area features a video installation to stream visual artworks or offer live feeds from the trackside.
Sophisticated 3D modelling generated the shapes of the carpet and created a universal design with no repeating patterns.
“The carpet takes inspiration from Mumm’s partnership with sporting events, such as horse and F1 racing where it emulates the movement of the wind-tunnel testing or the slip-stream created by high-speed activity,” adds Copolov.
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Creating a space for nostalgia
Associate Director, Bates Smart
The making of a new Members Club Stand prompted the question “How do we preserve and repurpose the rich, historic texture of the former building fabric? How do we integrate loved and iconic elements into our new contemporary architecture?”
We sought to create a genuine homage to the lineage of the club that would resonate with members current and future.
VRC’s extensive collection of archival oil paintings, photographs, trophies and memorabilia provided a unique source from which to weave the history of the club through our design. We created opportunities for evolving displays of these curated pieces, within the Arrival Lounges, Members Bar and The Dining Room, elevating them to pride of place within their new settings. Beyond these formal installations, we wanted to provide members with tactile and functional links to their former Club.
Overlooking the activity of the betting ring, the courtyard bar features a restored timber bench seat from which the action of the track had been viewed by many generations of racing enthusiasts. This very seat was the inspiration for our design of contemporary stadium seats positioned on tiered exterior viewing platforms. The Courtyard Bar is flanked by newel posts salvaged from the former exterior staircase, made famous by Jean Shrimpton’s visit in 1965 in her “scandalous” mini dress. Both seat and posts are complimented by rear wall lightboxes featuring fenestration which closely references the glazing pattern of the old Stand.
Original signage planks greet patrons on arrival to The Members Bar, as a graphic and nostalgic reminder of strict membership rules of times past. The central bar is flanked by paired diorama photo montages, chronicling the society and action of former race days. Door hardware was salvaged too. Original turned brass door handles fittingly lead patrons across the thresholds to the formal Dining Room and to the traditional Members Bar. The Bakery is now home to beautiful woven basket like bins which house reproductions of historic cigarette cards featuring nostalgic jockey’s portraits.
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