Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Longchamp bets on futuristic $145M grandstand

Story highlights

  • Longchamp race track undergoes major rebuild
  • Paris track home to Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
  • Bold design created by Dominique Perrault

(CNN)It hosts one of the most glamorous days on the sporting calendar, but Paris' Longchamp racecourse has long been in need of a makeover.

Next month, following the conclusion of Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, work will start on a project that owner France Galop hopes will transform the appearance of the historic horse racing venue and secure its financial future.
Architect Dominique Perrault's futuristic new stand design incorporates "transparent shelves," replacing two rather tired main grandstands.
    Erected in the early 1960s, the stands have always felt slightly at odds with their surroundings in the Bois de Boulogne, an 850-hectare public park on the French capital's western fringes.
    The new building and overall redesign is costing €130 million ($145 million) and will feel less alien in the setting, Perrault insists.
    "Everybody is happy with the project because it has got more green space," Perrault told CNN.
    "For me, I like the relationship between the architecture and nature -- it's very smooth, very delicate and poetic also."
    A series of concrete plateaus will house restaurants, bars and terraced hospitality spaces with panoramic views.
    "You can see in all directions," the Paris-based architect explains.
    "The trackside looks out to the east onto Paris, the Eiffel Tower. To the west, you have the Seine river and a park. The idea is you walk on a different plateau and the view on either side is uninterrupted like a fluid promenade."
    Service buildings currently scattered around the site will also be demolished and rebuilt as pavilions, while the racecourse's historic structures will be renovated.
    Much of Perrault's previous work has focused on harmonizing the relationship between buildings and the natural environment.
    His design for the French National Library, completed in 1989, incorporates a sunken courtyard populated with trees.
    Perrault's EWHA Women's University campus in Seoul, South Korea, also blurs the lines between city spaces and natural landscapes, creating a single area that accommodates both study and recreation.
    "The building disappears -- it has some roots and these roots connect the building with nature," he says.
    France Galop, French horse racing's governing body, is banking on the new pared-down facility to attract more racegoers year-round rather than just during "Arc" weekend, when 50,000 punters pack the stands for the world's richest turf event.
    Building work means that next year's race will be run at Chantilly, 50 kilometers north of Paris, before returning to the newly configured Longchamp in 2017.