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New changing rooms shoot up in Selkirk wood

Published: 24 Jun 2012 09:300 comments

BROTHERS Chris and John Houston - both renowned for their rugby - are playing a vital role in the Forest Pitch arts and soccer project which is one of Scotland's main contributions to the Cultural Olympiad.

Chris Houston at the shelter near Midlem.

Their recently established Jedburgh-based company, Caledonia Log Homes Ltd, has built the striking log shelter at the football ground, which has been cut from the heart of a Selkirk spruce wood.

The shelter was designed by Glasgow's award-winning Gareth Hoskins Architects and incorporates trees from the site along with Douglas Firs from other nearby woodlands.

The shelter will provide a changing area and viewing platform for spectators during two highly unusual games which will be played on the pitch on 21 July.

The four teams involved (two male and two female) will largely be made up of new Scots who have come to the country for reasons to do with safety, family, work or study and who wish to celebrate Scottish sport and culture.

After the matches are over the white lines of the pitch will be planted with native trees and will become a living sculpture, and provide an area for local people and visitors to enjoy for decades ahead.

Chris (30), who spent several years in Canada playing rugby for teams such as the Montreal Barbarians and learning his trade as a builder of handcrafted log structures, said: "It's a great project; the combination of art and sport is quite unique. And for us as a local start-up company it's been a fantastic opportunity to be involved with something inspiring and unusual."

Forest Pitch is one of several Scottish arts projects which form part of the UK-wide Cultural Olympiad (and London 2012 Festival), which runs in tandem with the 2012 Olympic Games. It is the work of Edinburgh artist, Craig Coulthard, who wanted to use sport to explore the nature of Scottish identity and culture at a time of unparalleled change and debate.

Craig said: "Chris and John have done a brilliant job of bringing to life the shelter design created by the architects. The whole idea was to use as many natural and locally sourced materials as possible and to create something that is really robust and will last for many years to come.

"The shelter has been designed to use tree trunks in a way that is in keeping with the surrounding woodland, but which also echoes the amazing main stand at the Gala Fairydean FC ground."

The Gala Fairydean stand was created in 1963 by modernist architect Peter Womersley and is now a listed building. It's famous for its dramatic geometric shape and its concrete solidity. The Forest Pitch playing surface has also been formed using soil from the pitch at the Borders football club, which is currently modernising its own pitch.

The wooden shelter was designed by architect Donald Simpson three years ago as part of the entry for the Artists in the Lead competition which Forest Pitch won ahead of around 90 other proposals.

He said: "Something imaginative like this was right up our street - it's such an interesting project. The idea of a pristine football pitch in the middle of a forest was just so unusual, so we really wanted to get involved.

"The idea was to create a structure using wedge shapes like the stand at Gala Fairydean, but using untreated natural wood - so in that way it is a complete contrast."

The shelter should last 25-30 years and is intended to spark people's curiosity when they suddenly come upon it while taking walks through the woodlands.

It will also be somewhere they can use as a viewing platform to see the pitch when it is replanted - and may also house interpretation panels to tell visitors about the project and the 2012 matches.

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