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.