Peter Womersley: from Bauhaus to boiler house

The ‘miraculous’ grandstand designed by peter womersley for gala fairydean rovers fc in galashiels
The ‘miraculous’ grandstand designed by Peter Womersley for Gala Fairydean Rovers FC in Galashiels / © Richard Brook

Combining brutality and breezy optimism, the British architect Peter Womersley brought a purist’s beauty to small-town projects in the 60s and 70s. Now his virtuosic talents are being rediscovered.

It’s fair to say that Gala Fairydean Rovers, of the Ferrari Packaging Lowland League, is not one of the glamour clubs of British football. To its possibly bemused pride, however, the club has a grandstand, a miraculous work of concrete origami, which for force of constructional imagination and for architectural intelligence per cubic metre is hard to beat. While its levitating prisms anticipate by decades the work of Zaha Hadid, it has a taut to-the-point-ness that has never been bettered. As if to give a public demonstration of dimensions numbers 1 to 3, it is equally virtuosic in line, surface and mass.

Today it is clogged with alterations, so to appreciate its original purity it helps to look at the photographs taken in 1963, when it was new. One of these also shows the E-type Jaguar of its architect, Peter Womersley, though being black-and-white it doesn’t show that the car was gold. The Jag must have been a sight, amid the ancient rural beauty of the Scottish Borders, but then so were Womersley’s buildings. Rarely has there been a more unlikely setting for cutting-edge architecture than Melrose, Galashiels, Selkirk and other small towns thereabouts.

Womersley (1923-93) was, quite simply, one of the best British architects of the 20th century, and until recently one of the most overlooked. His buildings are adventurous but poised; lucid, brave in conception and considered in their detail. He knew how to be elegant in a classical modern way but also how to play with a mannerism – a strange window rhythm, an imbalance in the structure, a stretched proportion, an ambiguous material – so as to achieve a greater composure than if he had played only by the rules. Rebecca Wober, an Edinburgh-based architect who has done much to unearth his life and work, says he made “spaces that just sing”. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
TITLE | Founder of Architecture Lab
About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

Leave a Comment