Paris’ historic Longchamp racecourse undergoes massive $145M face lift

The video below was filmed during our summer BW Roadtrip to Paris. 

Cultural and entertainment projects are on the rise — and Paris’ Longchamp racecourse — home to the famous Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe horse race — is one of the latest examples in recreational building.

Although all architectural typologies offer chances for innovation, cultural and recreational buildings often present unique opportunities because they are shared by a wide range of users, serve uncommon uses, and draw upon funding sources that allow for much larger budgets than typically seen in other projects.

There are many reasons why these types of projects are on the rise. Here are a few:

  1. They serve as a focal point within a city and contribute to a group’s cultural identity.
  2. They drive in business, tourism, and other economic benefits to a city.
  3. They provide amenities and improved quality of life for residents.

For the designer, culture/entertainment projects present unique and exciting challenges. The need to accommodate large numbers of people often leads to a complex interrelationship of spaces and functions that create new opportunities for the designer, but because of the huge monetary investment, there is often added public scrutiny. In many cases, competitions are held to ensure that a wide range of visions are explored and the best solution selected.

The new Longchamp racecourse features a cantilevered design. (Courtesy of

About the project owner and the challenge

France Galop, the operators of the Longchamp Racecourse, were faced with precisely these challenges when they set out to build Le Nouveau Longchamp. In addition, they wanted a solution that would meet the challenges of modern sporting. These included a desire to be able to adjust capacity based on attendance, include versatile, highly comfortable spaces that could be rented for symposia, seminars, congresses, and cultural or other sports events, to add year-round value.

The old Longchamp design (from 2012)

The owners also looked for an iconic design and detailing that reflected horse racing and to support a deep connection between spectators and the race taking place. This would be heightened by an enhanced digital experience that made use of screens, dedicated cameras, slow motion, interviews, and statistics. At the same time, it had to be ecologically friendly.

But most of all, its design, comfort, and amenities had to stand up to other similar facilities and even other entertainment competitors across the globe.

Designing the new racecourse

Architect Dominique Perrault

The first step was to hold an international design competition. This led to the selection of Dominique Perrault — the famed architect of the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale — as well as Bouygues Construction. In Perrault’s design, Le Nouveau Longchamp allows the spectators to move effortlessly from the ground to a grand staircase that takes them to a large platform where they can congregate before the race, view the horses in the parade ring, and look into a series of gardens below.

Taking a cue from the racecourse’s location in the Bois de Boulogne — a large public park formerly used as a hunting ground for the French monarchy, trees puncture this plane periodically to enhance the interplay between building and nature.

Once “inside” the building, the line between inside and outside continues to blur. The 16 suites and 57 individual boxes — with access to private salons and dedicated catering facilities — as well as the viewing spaces for the general public all open seamlessly to the racecourse on one side and the parade ring on the other. Read more about how the architect describes the building here.

Sustainability requirements

Beyond the design of the facility, the team is committed to sustainable development in accordance with the Climate Plan of the City of Paris. The racecourse itself was granted ISO 14001 Certification and the building will have dual HQE certification: HQE® for tertiary buildings and HQE® for indoor environment, combined with lifecycle analysis (LCA) on the building to be renovated.

Waste management will be optimized with implementation of a waste sorting system and the application of advanced recycling methods, and more than 50% of the waste will be fully recycled at certified sites. The environmental footprint will be reduced by decreasing consumption and discharges via passive energy devices (biodiversity, exposure to sun, effective insulation, natural ventilation, natural lighting) and active energy devices (production of renewable energy, geothermal heat pumps, and photovoltaic panels). Economical water management will also be used. These efforts will not only ensure a more eco-friendly facility but also reduce operating and maintenance costs.

The finished product

Interior rendering of Nouveau Longchamp (Courtesy of

When Le Nouveau Longchamp opens in April of 2018, it will offer those interested in horse racing a wide range of spaces that provide exceptional vantage points and luxurious spaces. The materials selected include surfaces finished in gold and marble and carefully crafted wood chairs, both of which offer a sense of luxury while also paying homage to stable design.

From a structural perspective, the thin floor slabs appear almost weightless, yet are able to support the powerful cantilevered slab that juts out in the direction that the horses run. The result: A building imbued with a sense of motion that parallels the activity that it is designed to observe.