Netherdale Stadium: The beauty of brutalism

WHEN it comes to naming the great football grounds of Scotland it’s just possible that Netherdale Stadium in Galashiels may not be the first that comes to mind.

True, the home of Scottish Lowland League team Gala Fairydean Rovers doesn’t quite have the scale of an Ibrox, a Celtic Park or a Hampden. But it does have one of the most striking stands in the country, a cantilever structure that resembles, the Observer’s architecture critic Rowan Moore once suggested, “concrete origami”.

Not universally popular (brutalist structures rarely are), the now A-listed stand was the work of Peter Womersley, one of the great unsung heroes of Scottish post-war architecture.

It is only in recent years that Womersley, who died in 1993, has begun to receive the recognition he is due. His modernist buildings dot the Scottish borders, visions of what used to be the future that still cut sharp lines into the rural softness of their surroundings.

Most notably, near Selkirk, Womersley built a glass-box of a home, High Sunderland (1958), for the Serbian-born, Borders-based artist and textile designer Bernat Klein. He also built an adjacent studio for Klein in 1972. Unfortunately, the studio has long been abandoned and is currently on the Buildings at Risk Register, while High Sunderland was sold by Klein’s daughter Shelley in 2018.

Read More: Bernat Klein – Fashioning a life in colour

“My approach to architecture is relatively simple,” Womersley once said, “I try and give delight.”

Rather like his buildings, Womersley was a curious mixture of quiet and brash. He was an elusive, private man who was not one for networking. And yet he also drove an E-type Jaguar around the Borders. A gold E-type jag to be strictly accurate.

The stand at Netherdale, it should be said, is not quiet architecture. All angles and edges, it’s a structure that shouts. And yet for all its concrete monumentality, there’s a lightness to it too. Could you fold it over? Fold it up? From a certain angle it looks possible.

Opened in 1964, the stand had to be closed in November 2018 due to safety concerns. Earlier this year it was reported that Scottish Borders Council had earmarked money for restoration work and speaking to The Herald Magazine this week, Robert Fairburn, Gala Fairydean Rovers FC’s secretary, has confirmed that a £1.45million restoration, in conjunction with the club and Historic Scotland, will soon go ahead. The project is currently out for tender, with work due to start in October.


The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992