Summer 1965 - The Borders San Siro

The sports stadium sweepingly designed in concrete is something we associate with abroad

“The sports stadium sweepingly designed in concrete is something we associate with abroad – the great winged canopies of Torroja or Nervi or, more recently, the majestic ‘tents’ of Tange. Of the same family, but on a much less lavish scale, we now have a small gem of our own.” Gala Fairydean FC in Galashiels, currently nestling in mid-table in the Lowlands League, is not the sort of place you would expect to find an icon of 20th-century architecture.

But Concrete Quarterly’s reviewer placed its main 620-seat stand, designed by Peter Womersley, alongside the works of renowned stadium designers such as Pier Luigi Nervi, Eduardo Torroja and Kenzo Tange. It remains an astonishing sight as it nears its 60th birthday, and still draws lofty comparisons – locally it is known as the Borders San Siro. Not bad for £25,000.

CQ was quick to praise the ingenious concrete geometry, with the whole design based on a module of 5 inches – the width of the Douglas fir boards that comprise the formwork – and on angles of 60˚ and 30˚. The basic structure consists of four tapering triangular piers which support the back wall of the seating and the canopy, a monumental hovering slice of concrete that cantilevers 26ft over the spectators. The turnstiles were a “delightful touch”, each with its own concrete umbrella on a single support, sheltering the way through and repeating the triangular theme of the main stand.

The stand has been closed for safety reasons since 2018, but is now being restored by Reiach and Hall. A recent photograph on the architect’s Instagram feed showed that advertising boards had been removed from the rear of the seating, allowing the iconic roof to hover in space as originally intended for the first time in 30 years.

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