Bates Smart Club Stand for Victoria Racing Club opens for Melbourne Cup Carnival

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The Club Stand for the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), a new centrepiece at Flemington Racecourse that is home to the internationally renowned Lexus Melbourne Cup, the ‘race that stops a nation’ was officially opened 1 November 2018.

Leading Australian architecture and interior design practice, Bates Smart was engaged by the VRC in 2012 to design the new $128 million grandstand and hospitality facility with a GFA of 12,967sqm. The five-level Club Stand sets a new benchmark for racecourse facilities and represents the 10th grandstand to be built at Flemington since 1865.  

The design draws inspiration from the shape of the iconic racetrack, adorned by its much-loved rose gardens and the floral headwear donned on racedays. A signature feature of the project is the ‘petal’ projections which form the perimeter of the Club Stand at each floor. These were constructed using 90 precast panels each weighing up to 30 tonnes.

Club stand exterior, Image credit: Peter Clarke

Bates Smart Director Kristen Whittle, who led the design for the architectural team, says:

The highly sculptural curvilinear form of the building with its tilting sunshade and tiered seating will create an immersive ‘in-the-round’ experience for Members and their guests who will enjoy each of the beautifully curated venues with impressive views of the racetrack.

Image credit: Peter Clarke

The Club Stand is designed to celebrate the rich history and character of Flemington Racecourse giving the heritage racecourse new relevance whilst continuing the traditions of racing. It’s sweeping sculptural form is a focal point for the venue, offering connectivity to and 360-degree views of the Mounting Yard, race track, Members Lawn, Parade Ring, Betting Ring and Winning Post.  

VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott said the new Club Stand embodies the rich tradition and legacy of the Club, while championing its evolution:

Bates Smart has designed an exceptional building with unique spaces that deliver an unrivalled raceday experience for VRC Members and their guests.

he wide-ranging restaurants and bars, each with their own design personality drawing on our rich history, ensure there is something for everyone as well as guaranteeing Flemington and Melbourne remain the global home of racing, events and entertainment. The Club Stand is a confident expression of the VRC’s belief in our future growth and prosperity.

It is a ‘game-changer’ for us.

Club interior. Image credit: Sean Fennessy

The perimeter of The Club Stand features floor-to-ceiling glazing that is treated as frameless walls. This concept is brought internally with curved full-height glass dividing walls so there is visibility through the building. The principle white ceilings are curved to mimic the underside and the balconies of the external façade to bring the architectural expression within.

A key driver of the design was to create opportunities to improve sightlines to the race-track and to ensure the floorplate remains flexible to accommodate any alternations to meet future needs. The Club Stand significantly increases the capacity for the VRC with unprecedented sightlines as well as broadening the offer of unique premium bars and restaurants for Members.

Interior venues are defined by transparent thresholds. Seamless glass screens grow out of the architectural facades on each level to create elegant, curvilinear bay windows. Thresholds between the interior spaces, the terraces and the circulation spaces ‘dissolve’, continuing the theme of transparency, while providing outstanding sightlines to the track.

Bates Smart Director Jeff Copolov, responsible for the interior design, says:

It was important to create a seamless transition from the exterior architecture to the interior spaces to ensure a premium race-day experience for Members, offering a cohesive and consistent design language from the outside in.

Every detail has been carefully considered to minimise the impact on the views and expand the extraordinary frameless glass floor-to-ceiling perimeter.

The Club Stand is crowned by The Roof Garden, providing patrons with exceptional views of both the racecourse and Melbourne’s city skyline. The Roof Garden offers landscaped areas with open and enclosed spaces beneath canopies, a signature design element of The Club Stand’s architecture.  

The Rooftop Garden, Image credit: Sean Fennessy

To further improve circulation, a new external walkway on the first-floor wraps around The Club Stand and is connected to the existing Members Grandstand and Parade Ring. A new north-south corridor forms the heart of the new Club Stand and links the Betting Ring with the Members Lawn and Mounting Yard. 

The Members Lawn is linked to the signature bars located on the first floor of The Club Stand through a grand sloping tier of low seating, which will encompass viewing platforms and cascading gardens. This space provides a seamless connection between inside and outside environments, creating an elevated experience for members. 

Mumm Champagne Bar. Image credit: Sean Fennessy

Bates Smart was also responsible for the design of The Betting Ring, a key element to the theatre and excitement of race day, as well as an important arrival experience at the racecourse. The design of the Betting Ring creates a series of new pavilions for the traditional bookmakers. The curved form of the canopies, along with their elegant profile continues the curvilinear form of the building out into the forecourt. The pavilion canopies also provide a covered entry for Members before their arrival into The Club Stand. 

Lead image: Club stand exterior, Image credit: Peter Clarke

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