rethinking the SART

Last year, we decided that amongst our paying projects, we wanted to challenge ourselves to find creative solutions to large scale urban sites around California. One of these was inspired by a trip Ivan took to the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, CA. We created ourselves the simple brief of ‘if the racetrack needed to be re-master planned – what would we do?’…and started off with some very conceptual massing design sketches.

The main topic of this session was to challenge ourselves to integrate a new community development including a boutique hotel into the adaptive re-use of the existing grandstand architecture, creating a ‘village’ residential environment & link both to a previously approved strip mall development (similar to The Grove shopping experience in Los Angeles), which coincidentally sat right adjecent to another shopping mall – a typical Westfields development.

Exploring a unique hotel building should be placed just outside the existing grandstand as a way of connecting the shopping mall with the historical racecourse, we intended this to be the link between the shopping mall & a community green space. A tall iconic building (design to be developed, using an iconic tower shape designed by others as a precedent for the idea) was proposed as a landmark seen from the main shopping mall entrance. The inside of the racetrack, a huge open park with public amenity & other utility buildings was an ideal opportunity to proposed cultural art & museum buildings similar to that of the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park – a spectacular public experience which we highly recommend everyone visit.  Utilizing the hotel’s public lobby & open space at grade level was an ideal opportunity to connect the proposed hotel and cultural facilities with the proposed residential neighborhood located on the opposite side the race track.

The ideals of the brainstorming session was focused on both an architectural solution providing animation to this iconic existing space in Arcadia for the rest of the community, as well as acknowledging the history of the Santa Anita Racetrack & how an urban exploration in connecting this truly amazing cultural facility of the racetrack with the surrounding urban fabric & enhance the community. Using site analysis sketches, precedent images & masterplan massing sketches we found that this exploration opened many questions & ideas for what could be done should a project of this scale ever be approached.


  1. Anne Roberts

    Coming from someone who has worked at Santa Anita Racetrack for over 14 years I do feel I have bit of insight on what works at the track and what has made us one of the great race places in the country. I love your idea of a hotel and your shopping concept. Although I believe Caruso the person whom we can thank the Grove & the Americana for had something in plan for that and it was just voted down. I do think there are many things that can be done to update the pavilion and make it more inviting and bring in more patrons. However, people forget this is a racetrack and people go their to see the horse run and gamble when you start obstructing the view so your can’t see the horses run by putting all kinds of stuff in the middle of the infield you drive away the gaming patrons which is why the track is there in the first place and what they make the most revenue on. Santa Anita is known around the world as one of the most beautiful racetracks because of the amazing backdrop, the track is literally nestled in the mountain range. It truly is breathe taking. To put anything between that and the track would be sinful. I think you have some amazing ideas but, please just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t forget the heart & soul of this majestic place.

  2. Hi Anne,
    Thank you for your feedback. For us it was just a design exercise done within the office and out of our own time and initiative and we just wanted to share our design thoughts through our blog. Appreciate your comments.

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