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Fosters odds-on favourite for London races

And they're off! Going to the races will never be quite the same again.

Foster and Partners' plans for a sleek new racecourse proposed for a site in Essex near Fairlop Station is an attempt to rethink the whole layout of such places.

The plans for the London City Racecourse, which will be Britain's first new racecourse since 1927, are an attempt to create a logical layout of facilities such as stables and saddling boxes, in contrast with other courses which have tended to add features over time and without the benefit of an overall strategy or masterplan. Often the winners'enclosures and parade rings are a long trek from the centre of the action, so bringing all the facilities to the central area is also an attempt to demystify the sport and encourage future fans, says Fosters.

The new course configures the main, slug-like grandstand - which can accommodate 10,000 spectators in the stand itself and 10,000 more on the rails, many of them under cover - adjacent to the finishing line. The stables are positioned directly opposite, on the other side of the track.

Racegoers will be able to see horses being led to the parade ring, which is located in a natural amphitheatre.

Visitors will also be able to look out from a spectacular viewing area within the roof of the grandstand, reached by lifts in the building's structural cores. They will be able to see the track and the city of London beyond. Other buildings in the grounds will include a pub restaurant, creche and fitness centre, all sharing a similar architectural language to the curvilinear grandstand roof and looking out onto a lake and over to a country park. The site also includes a golf driving range within the course and an area 'retained and managed for newts'.

The whole project will be the subject of a public inquiry in May. A decision is expected in September and, if successful, the first bets will be taken at the new course when it opens in autumn 2003.

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