Pioneering work of Scottish architect Archibald Leitch remembered

Archibald Leitch in 1924. The Scottish architect helped design some of the most famous football grounds in Scotland and England, as well as many industrial facilities
Archibald Leitch in 1924. The Scottish architect helped design some of the most famous football grounds in Scotland and England, as well as many industrial facilities
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He was the Scottish architect behind some of the UK’s most iconic football grounds but whose work has now largely been forgotten outwith the small world of stadium enthusiasts.

Now the legacy of Archibald Leitch is being celebrated as part of a new art exhibition in his home city of Glasgow to coincide with the 80th anniversary of his death.

The red-bricked frontage of the Bill Struth stand at Ibrox is one of the few Leitch designs to acquire listed-status

The red-bricked frontage of the Bill Struth stand at Ibrox is one of the few Leitch designs to acquire listed-status

The Scot helped develop many of the most famous grounds of the 20th century including Hampden, Anfield, Goodison, and Villa Park.

Barring a few notable exceptions, many of the grandstands and open terraces he pioneered have long since been lost to redevelopment.

His most famous creation in Scotland - the iconic main stand at Ibrox, which dates from 1928 - is one of the few examples of his work to have achieved listed status.

Football grounds historian and Leitch biographer Simon Inglis will deliver a lecture on the legacy of the architect’s career on May 28 in Glasgow.

“Every year we lose another one of his buildings,” he told The Scotsman. “There are currently 11 left standing. But Goodison Park, one of his best known works, will be demolished in a few years when Everton eventually move to a new stadium.

“Football grounds are working buildings. Many are turned down for listing because they have been significantly altered over the years.

“But Leitch was a pioneer in many ways.”

Inglis’ talk takes place as part of The Failing Light, an exhibition at the House For an Art Lover in Glasgow. The centrepiece is a new film by visual artist Callum Rice, which explores the Grade A-listed Sentinel Works in Polmadie. Designed by Leitch, it now lies abandoned.

Inglis admits that part of the fascination with Leitch is based on nostalgia for a sporting world that has now vanished.

The safety reccomendations passed in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster saw terraces pulled down and stadiums comprehensively rebuilt.

“Younger fans don’t appreciate how different a matchday experience was back then compared to now. It wasn’t just the grounds, the world of football was a foreign country,” he added.

“But I don’t think many fans would enjoy sitting in a Leitch grandstand as they originally stood in the 1920s. The seats would be very narrow. And you’d be lucky if there was more than one ladies’ toilet in the entire building.”

The Failing Light exhibition at House for an Art Lover runs until June 23 at the Studio Pavillion