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Pit stop precision

A new pit and paddock complex, containing team garages and hospitality suites, will open in time for this year’s
British Grand Prix. Martin Cooper reports from the home of UK motor racing.

With the attention of the world firmly on Melbourne ahead of next week’s season opening Australian Grand Prix, contractors thousands of miles away are putting the finishing touches to a new pit lane and paddock complex for Silverstone racetrack.

This former Second World War RAF airfield has been synonymous with Formula 1 motor racing since 1948 when it hosted its first British Grand Prix, an event it has hosted every year since 1987.

Contiuous evolution

The circuit has continually evolved over the years with alterations to the track’s configuration and improvements to spectator and competitor facilities. This process must continue as it is seen as vital to Silverstone’s efforts to retain its position in the top tier of world motor racing circuits.

Part of this on-going programme is the construction of a new pit lane and paddock complex between Club Corner and Abbey Curve, two of the circuit’s famous corners. Once complete, the starting grid and finishing line will be relocated, to the front of the new structure.

The 360m long steel framed structure will house 41 team garages along the ground floor and will also accommodate a media centre, hospitality suites - to cater for 4,000 people - and a race control box.

Taking into account the many functions the building will perform, the design concept called for flexibility. Architecturally a strong impression of velocity and sleekness was required.

“The roof form takes its lead from modern cars with sleek lines and a blade at one end,” says John Rhodes, associate principal at Populous, the project’s architect. “It depicts excitement, and the blade also acts as a feature or signpost to the building.”

“The roof form takes its lead from modern cars with sleek lines and a blade at one end”

John Rhodes, Populous


To create the illusion of speed and excitement the paddock’s roof is dynamic in form as it rises, falls and flares to mimic movement. The roof is also monolithic, with no joints. It gets a sleek seamless appearance from a liquid roofing material which is applied to it.

The dips and troughs culminate at the blade, which is a non-habitable 16.5m long steel fin-like structure jutting forth at 40˚ from one end of the building. It has been constructed from four main steel trusses, each one assembled on the ground and erected with two 50t capacity cranes.

Truss lift

One crane lifted the truss and held it in position, while the other erected the smaller in-filling sections. The trusses are all 16.5m long and at their widest point they are 2.18m deep. Overall more than 300 individual hot rolled steel pieces were used to construct the fin.

The steel framed paddock building is on a greenfield site and founded on pad foundations. It is structurally divided into four sectors, all separated by circulation cores containing stairs and lifts. Block one, nearest the blade, has three levels, while the rest of the structure has two floors.

Race team garages (high enough to accept truck racing vehicles) are spread along the ground floor of the paddock. Above this, level two is mostly open-plan with two mezzanine floors, giving it the required flexible design for a multitude of functions.

“One of the main reasons for choosing a steel frame was that it gives us this flexibility,” adds Rhodes. “Using a fairly large open plan grid, the hospitality areas can either be partitioned into separate boxes or the whole floor can be open plan for exhibitions. The mezzanines allow us to create VIP areas, separate from the rest of the floor level.”

In block one, a media centre has been sandwiched between the ground floor garages and a second floor hospitality level. Just below the blade, block one also contains the racing control centre overlooking the new pit entry point.

Barrett Steel Buildings was design and build contractor for the project’s steelwork. It had erected approximately two-thirds of its 1,200t steelwork package before last year’s Grand Prix last July, when the site was closed down (see box).

“One of the main reasons for choosing a steel frame was that it gives us this flexibility”

John Rhodes, Populous


Block One was the first section to be erected along with its adjacent core, the largest of the structure’s cores.

“We started at this end because this core will have all of the services for the media centre as well as hospitality zones,” says Barrett Steel Buildings senior site manager Stuart Bew.

“As there are more follow-on trades in this area it was important to get the steel up as early as possible.”

Column connections

The largest of the cores, known as Block One, also took time to erect because of its complex configuration. One side has three levels and the other only two, with a sloping roof above. To accommodate the varying floor levels Barrett has installed a number of column connections, holding in place as many as seven beams.

Steelwork then continued down the structure with Block Two then being erected, followed by Block Four. After the Grand Prix hiatus, Block Three was erected between the previously erected steelwork.

The overall paddock steelwork programme, including a small adjacent steel framed energy centre was completed in September.

The project is on schedule for completion this Spring, with the paddock and pit complex due to be used first for this year’s Moto GP event.

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