The Curragh is internationally recognised as one of the best racecourses in the world, as well as the spiritual home of flat racing in Ireland. However, to maintain its competitive position, a full redevelopment of the site was needed to meet the demands of the future. A brief was set to design a new racecourse grandstand with supporting infrastructure facilities for 6000 people, within a masterplan that was designed to accommodate a crowd flux of up to 30,000 within the wider grounds.
The completed project, costing €81million, opened to the public in the Spring 2019 and has since received acclaim of its design excellence.
The redevelopment creates a sense of arrival, atmosphere and excitement with world-class facilities and amenities linked to a major new grandstand which forms a heroic centrepiece. Within the grandstand are five-star corporate facilities, restaurants, bars and superb viewing facilities creating the ultimate hospitality experience for patrons.
Celebrating the unique landscape of the Curragh, the main grandstand is comprised of three simple elements that are respectful to the local plains, with the roof cutting a dramatic and elegant silhouette across the sky. Marked out by the soaring roof, the redeveloped site creates anticipation on race day by bringing spectators together across one exemplary viewing terrace that directs attention to the spectacle of Irish flat racing. The iconic roof, and its dramatic cantilevers, emphasises the contrast between the natural undulating forms of the Curragh, and the precision of the man-made.
Designed as a powerful floating horizontal form, the grandstand’s dramatic cantilever roof celebrates the Curragh’s expansive, open landscape and the new racecourse structures set within it. Viewed from near and afar, the roof gives the area a unique and distinctive character and identity.
Inspired by the surrounding Curragh plains and grasslands, materials for the new grandstand reflect the local flora, geology and the rural context. The roof’s Vulcan Copper colour references the rural Irish vernacular and the agricultural heritage of Kildare, while the contemporary panelled roof structure is comprised of aluminium sinusoidal panels, which provide a homogenous and breath-taking appearance amongst the rolling countryside.
Internally the grandstand offers an animated and vibrant heart to the racing cycle in the Champions Hall. This double height, naturally lit space is conceived as an extension of the public realm. Views across the different levels and between trackside and the parade ring ensure that the Champions hall is a dynamic and visually exciting space that offers patrons protection from the inclement weather, with a wide-ranging offer of F&B concessions.
Grimshaw designed the interior of all the public areas, bars and the majority of the private suites. The interior design responds to the surrounding landscape and embraces the architectural palette to provide a contemporary aesthetic, while also drawing on the rich heritage of the venue, and the materials, textiles and craft of the local area. Common elements unify the communal areas within the hospitality facilities, and each restaurant and bar offer their own unique atmosphere and palette, ensuring a variety of spaces to be enjoyed by every racegoer. Blending concrete and brass together with the warmth of other materials, such as natural stone, leather and timber, creates rich, calm and welcoming spaces. The materiality is intended to mellow with age, providing a timeless back drop to the thrill and anticipation that encapsulates race day.
Connectivity and circulation are important aspects of the design and, surrounding the central building, all public spaces, refreshment areas and the proposed Racing Museum are interconnected. Well-organised, open circulation creates continuity between events, the parkland setting and social gatherings. The racing cycle, the movement and flow between the parade rings, the betting areas, the hospitality areas and the racetrack are all intrinsic parts of the race day experience. A series of public spaces provide and promote different activities, and each area has a distinctive atmosphere and identity, set within the overall vision for the site.
Sustainability is at the heart of the redevelopment, with a focus on lean design and intelligent use of materials, including cement replacements, recycled steel, and the adoption of rainwater attenuation and harvesting as part of a sustainable drainage system. Natural ventilation in the champions hall, museum and bistro restaurant utilises the exposed thermal mass of the concrete frame and is supplemented by smart sensors and efficient systems designed to maximise daylight in all public spaces.
The redevelopment puts The Curragh back on the map as a key destination, as well as creating a boost to the local economy and tourist industry. The iconic design and world class facilities are an undeniable asset to the area, carefully complimenting its unique context. The new Curragh grandstand and surrounding facilities have received a fitting tribute to its heritage and spirit.
Founded in 1980, Grimshaw operates worldwide, employing over 600 staff. Our international portfolio covers various sectors, with substantial experience in aviation projects of all scales, leisure schemes, transport, offices, education, sports, the industrial sector and master planning.
Grimshaw’s dedication to high quality design is paramount, whether working on low budget structures or high cost buildings with complex technical specification. The practice believes in its responsibility for its work to contribute to worldwide environmental improvement and sustainability. In 2000, Grimshaw became the first major architectural practice to meet the ISO14001 environmental management system standard. We are experienced collaborators, adept at organising multi-disciplinary teams and have a wide knowledge base of specialist functions that allows us to effectively challenge ideas and preconceptions, creating a coherent, high-quality design that satisfies the client’s vision.