The Project

It’s off to the races for the new Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in historic Hot Springs, Arkansas. What began over 100 years ago as a 1,500-seat grandstand hosting high-stakes Thoroughbred horse racing is transformed into an upscale resort and entertainment destination experience, branded around its established reputation as one of the premier Thoroughbred racetracks in the country.

The Cella Family has owned and operated Oaklawn for multiple generations setting a high standard of excellence, as summarized by Louis Cella: “When my family started Oaklawn 117 years ago, there were really only two things we focused on: quality and class. That has been our compass for more than a century.”

Designers embraced Cella’s vision by developing a ‘Tailored Equestrian’ concept for the new resort expansion. The scheme celebrates the sport and history of Thoroughbred racing, and Hot Springs’ turn-of-the-20th-century heyday as The Spa City – America’s First Resort, an era when ladies and gentlemen donned their best bespoke styles to see and be seen. Imagery throughout also depicts the town’s infamous history as a haven for the rich and famous, like baseball hall of famer Babe Ruth and notorious gangsters, Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.

Oaklawn’s high-end, two-story lobby combines a refined modern aesthetic with historical undercurrents, through its bold architectural gestures, restrained gray-blue, navy and tan color palette, natural wood plank ceiling, traditional patterned tile, marble finishes, and a breathtaking, visually layered circular gold metallic chandelier.  A large art piece depicting galloping horses accentuates the hotel registration. A glass-enclosed fireplace grounds the cozy lobby lounge, where historical Oaklawn artifacts from the Owner’s personal collection are curated on illuminated shelving. A handsome lobby bar offers a contemporary suggestion of a 1920s Hot Springs speakeasy. Dynamic overlapping planes and linear forms recalling horse racing produce a sense of movement around the resort.

Reminiscent of a 1920s-era bathhouse, the new Astral Spa combines vintage-inspired shades of coral, green and grey in custom wallcoverings, board and batten walls and furnishings balance a contrast of masculine and feminine tailored styling. The addition of a large new event center, pre-function area and conference/meeting rooms allows Oaklawn to host business conferences and attract high-profile performers to the resort town of Hot Springs.

Photography © ThinkDero Photography / Dero Sanford

LocationHot Springs, ArkansasTotal Size271,610 SFTotal CostWithheld at Owner's RequestClientOaklawn Racing Casino Resort

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