Horseplay: Equine Design Takes the Spotlight

By: Rick Hess, DISD

“I’m just so lucky – my office is a racetrack. That is something I’m very thankful for. It’s exciting, and it’s challenging, and there are a lot of emotions and nerves that come with it, but right there before the gates open, before that minute and a half or two minutes of the race, it just hits you.”  -Chantal Sutherland, jockey in North American Thoroughbred horse racing

The invigorating smell of freshly cut turf, the low roar of the eager crowd, the endless entertainment of watching people sporting high fashion and possibly a hat – all fall to the background once the jockeys are lined up on their trusty mounts at the starting gate. For a moment, silence envelopes the racetrack.  And then “they are off”, as the heart-pounding excitement erupts again and it’s a race to the finish. Welcome to the world of thoroughbred horseracing.

The relationship between a horse and rider is truly a special bond and while many look to the jockeys as the star athletes, their equine co-stars are essential in bringing home the glory. A great amount of energy goes into caring for these race horses, and the efficient design of their stables and the racetracks take into consideration the behaviors and needs of these four-legged racers as well as the spectators cheering them on all the way to the finish line.  Design Institute of San Diego turns the spotlight on some notable racetracks and stables and delves into the fascinating world of equine design.

The Racetracks

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Meydan Racecourse, Dubai

Dubai is known for building innovative structures that capture its audience’s attention.  The Meydan Racecourse designed by Teoh A Khing in Dubai with its 1-mile grandstand can accommodate 60,000 spectators.  For a truly unique view of the races, just stay at the adjoining Meyadan Hotel where you can swim in an infinity edge pool overlooking the course.  The grandstand building cantilevers over the stadium seating and is equipped with thousands of LED lights to create one of the most dramatic horse racing experiences of all time.

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Meydan Racecourse, Dubai


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Curragh Racecourse, Ireland

London’s design studio Grimshaw is partnering with Dublin-based Newenham Mulligan & Associates to develop a master plan to redesign the Curragh grandstand in Ireland. The design firms intend to create “an innovative design that will create a sense of arrival, atmosphere and excitement.”  Architects and interior designers are still developing the schematics so stay tuned as this intriguing building develops.

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Curragh Racecourse, Ireland


The Stables

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Los Leones Stables, Chile

And where do these beautiful horses spend the rest of their days?   Architects Pablo Lamarca & Tomás Swett designed a stable in Chile using a modular frame that allows for maximum growth, easy cleaning, functional saddling, and plenty of natural day-lighting.  The roof structure also provides maximum rain insulation, a critical feature in a location that experiences over 118 inches of rainfall each year.  The interior stables are spacious and extremely well insulated to maintain the most comfortable environment for the horses. 

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Los Leones Stables, Chile

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Los Leones Stables, Chile


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La Solana Stable, Uruguay

Another noteworthy equine home is La Solana Stable in Uruguay, designed by Nicolas Pinto da Mota As the architect explains,  “The selections of materials, and the axial arrangement of the program, seek to establish certain stability in the way that the horses cohabit. The program includes two areas: pit and veterinary.”  The architect studied horse circulation and movement before designing this building’s functional layout.  The simple building shell uses perforated concrete to allow light to enter the stables, and wood to visually soften the interior.

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La Solana Stable, Uruguay

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La Solana Stable, Uruguay

We hope the next time you are at the track cheering for your favorite horse you will have a better appreciation for the design work that goes into not only your race experience but the entire life of each animal.  Knowing where these horses spend their days may just affect the way you bet on horse #7 next time you spend a day at the races.  Like any good designer, an equine designer keeps the well-being of the horse in mind to create a space that is both aesthetically pleasing and truly functional.





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