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WHAT A SAVE - FAIRYDEAN LISTED

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AGENDA

Not all the locals agree, but for fans of 1960s Brutalist architecture, the listing of Peter Womersley's concrete grandstand at Galashiels in the Scottish Borders is well deserved and long overdue.

The recent B-listing decision by Historic Scotland means Gala Fairydean FC's 'striking' Netherdale stadium has become only the second football stand in Scotland to be given heritage protection.

In architectural terms at least, the East of Scotland Football league minnows can now proudly puff out their chests alongside Glasgow Rangers - the owners of the other listed grandstand.

Built between 1963-65, the concrete structure, with its distinctive V-section vertical fins and wedge-shaped canopy, was seen by many as the UK's answer to the 'expressive and bold' stadia emerging in post-war Europe.

According to the Architectural Review in March 1965, Womersley's stand was not just 'structurally interesting' but also a 'geometrical composition of unusual interest and subtlety'.

Amazingly the boardmarked concrete and brick structure, which boasted integrated turnstiles, cost a paltry £25,000 to build, and most of that was raised through a public lottery.

Although the stand has been slightly altered in recent years - there has been some brick infilling to create an extension to the bar - both Docomomo and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland were adamant the building deserved to be listed.

Paul Stallan, design director at RMJM, says he can see why the building, designed with engineers Ove Arup, is revered.

He says: 'Without question it is a tour de force.

'At a time when most football stands were still a hybrid of cast-iron and timber construction, this structure stands out, not only as technologically exemplary but also a masterwork of geometry and proportion.

He adds: 'Today, when football bling extends to stadium design, this is both honest and athletic in its expression. It represents the Zidane of Scottish football stand structures; old, noble and hard as nails.'

However, not everyone is able to see the significance of the stand. Some local groups, including Borders Heritage at Risk, believe the structure is similar to second-rate Eastern Bloc architecture.

Others call the decision 'madness' and say that 'Hysterical Scotland' is out of touch with public feeling and opinion - especially when older, more 'historic' buildings in the town have been attened to make way for new shops.

Alan Dunlop, of gm + ad, though, is happy to defend the work of Womersley, who he rates alongside greats such as Gillespie, Kidd and Coia.

He said: 'This is an exceptional piece of architecture, its structural gymnastics are quite amazing.

Anybody who knows anything about architecture could not say otherwise.'

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