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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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It is difficult to compare Archibald to any of his peers during his time as Leitch pretty much dominated the market. In the 1920s, Leitch has worked for/with 16 out of the 22 First Division clubs at various points in time. Until the late 20th century there were very few architects who showed any sort of interest in football, so Leitch pretty much took control of the whole market.

Interestingly enough, in the book “Form Follows Fun”, Bruce Peter says that “Leitch’s large body of work in a single genre echoes the prolific Victorian theatre architect, Frank Mitcham, in its quantity, efficiency and nationwide spread.” This is because Frank himself dominated the world of theatrical architecture, and thus Archibald can only be compared to someone like him, with a resume of sheer length.

However, Leitch’s works were once compared to that of Pier Luigi Nervi. “They don’t represent groundbreaking design, and other early-20th century stadiums like those of Pier Luigi Nervi in Italy were more experimental in their form and use of material.” Leitch’s stadiums were often criticized as being overly simple, especially in comparison to those outside of the UK. Nevertheless, Leitch was limited in both time and budget as no other football architect had such a broad clientele list.

Although a comparison can be made with how the architecture of football stadiums has evolved over the years Stadiums never changed that much until the 1992 Taylor Report where changes where forced upon the teams for safety reasons. These days one can observe constant expansion in order to meet demands of clients. It is all about branding and status. In order to be considered a top team, you have to have an impressive stadium. Nowadays, Allianz Arena is seen as a benchmark, and the architecture and design has been constantly changing for the better.

In the recent decades, stadiums were not really integrated as much in the cities. Majority of the time, they were situated outside the city center. Recently, stadiums have evolved to the extent where they have multiple uses such as shops, restaurants and conference halls. Moreover, it is likely that stadiums will be built in more central areas of the city in order to be an integral part of the city life.

Critics

Leitch\'s stadiums were criticized in that some considered his works to functional rather than aesthetically elegant.

One of the main criticisms of Leitch was at the down point of his career. When Leitch designed his very first purpose built football stadium at Ibrox Park in Glasgow, the timber wasn’t good quality so one of the planks split and people fell through and around 26 people died. Archie was unfortunate enough to be a witness of the disaster. This disaster had a huge negative impact on Leitch’s moral as he felt responsible for the incident. His proudest day quickly turned into a catastrophe. He was a very passionate Rangers Fan and that is what ignited that fighting spirit that he had. He was part of the football culture, which inevitably helped him understand the whole scope of the process. Then he did what any decent designer would do in the circumstances, he went back to the drawing board.

Ever since, Leitch’s designs were more heavily focused on safety. Therefore, he introduced fixed steps, stronger terraces, steel crush barriers and finally designated aisles.

Own assessment

In my opinion, Archibald did a fascinating job at dominating the untapped market. This is especially impressive because Archibald did not have much to draw from in terms of design. He was arguably one of the first in the business and therefore there was little or no room from exterior inspiration or guidance.

In terms of his legacy, unfortunately many of the stadiums have been “upgraded”, so unfortunately I have not had a chance to his best works real life. It is a shame to see Leitch’s stadiums bot present anymore, but I feel that this was an inevitable part of architectural revolution, especially in terms of budget allowances for top teams such as Arsenal and Manchester United. I have however been to Craven Cottage which Leitch has worked on, but I suppose that after the £5.4 million, much has changed. However, it was good to know that both the Pavilion and the main stand remained the same. Personally, I very much like the red brick look because to me it stands out and sends a message. To me, brick itself represents strength, and I feel like that was a nice touch on Leitch’s part.

Undoubtedly, the size and overall look of the stadiums he has worked on is very primitive in comparison to what we have today, but I feel like with the limited budget available to him, he really produced wonderful home grounds. On the other hand, with the simplicity of the stadiums before, I think that there was a much more fanatic and authentic atmosphere, in terms of two opposite stands facing each other and screaming chants. Although passion within the stadium is still present today, the exclusion of business VIP lounges, and less

Archibald Leitch described himself as a “Consulting Engineer and Factory Architect”. This is because he was primarily an engineer who designed factories.

Leitch understood the timing, finances and engineering. He was able to apply all three of these qualities into efficiently getting his work done. As an engineer, he calculated every little detail (visibility, fireproof material, stand and pitch relationship, drainage). He was very diligent and precise with his work.

As a factory architect, Leitch was very financially cautious. His methods were both quick and cost effective which is exactly was budget-conscious football clubs were looking for.

Leitch was also a great salesman. This without doubt helped him land deals with the vast majority in both England and Scotland. In addition, he had a passion for football. He was an avid football fan, which made him approach everything he did with a lot of heart. This was one of the main factors which caused Archibald to fight back even when times were very tough.

Leitch was very big on leaving a legacy. As a football fanatic, he knew that a stadium was a synonym for home. He cherished the fact that a home ground for any football fan was more than just a venue, and so for Leitch, stadiums were nothing if not permanent. In addition, he was succeeded by his son for twenty years after his death in 1939 to carry on the legacy.

However, a lot of Leitch’s has unfortunately been demolished. This was part of an inevitable cycle of progression in football but it was also one of the consequences of the disaster in Hillsborough in 1989 which was a human crush at a semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. After this, the Taylor Report was established and the regalements for safety significantly changed.

Some of Leitch work has luckily survived. The Johnny Haynes Stand at Craven Cottage, built in 1905, the South Stand at Ibrox which was built in 1929, and finally main stand at Dundee.

In addition to the unbelievable quantity and versatility of his works, Leitch was also very big on setting his standards high. Leitch built big, complicated buildings at a time when money was short and the sport of football was growing fast. He developed a method of construction and standardization. With an efficiency of material and ease of construction, Leitch stadiums set the standards of stadiums built even up to this date. So despite, the absence of physical legacy, Leitch’s legacy lives through the bar that he set for all the stadiums built/renovated after he was no longer around.

There was nothing technologically new about the grounds designed by Leitch. Simple design- rectangular pitch with a rail and wooden stands around the outside. There is no science and engineering whatsoever. As the grounds get bigger, there becomes a growing necessity for more robust structures. Leitch, in comparison to others was the very first person to go and sit down at a drawing board to think about perspectives, lines and calculations. He took on the challenge, and his philosophy was simple, sit down, visualize and work hard.

Context

British Design

During Leitch’s career (1900-1939), he managed to work with the world’s greatest clubs clubs such as :Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and many more.

One of Leitch’s legacies is his standardization of the terrace. One of his designs was the modern terrace which included, concrete steps, fixed dimensions and steel barriers. This was a crucial addition into the design of stadiums because prior to Leitch, football fans in the UK would watch the game standing on top of surfaces which were made of either grass or dirt.

Another feature of the Leitch stadium is the grandstand. Before Leitch, stadiums were essentially temporary structures made of either wood or steel.

One of Leitch’s memorable works was The Main Stand at Liverpool Football Club’s new Anfield Stadium built in 1906. This was Leitch’s first stand built from reinforced concrete. This was a very special design as reinforced concrete at the time was a new material, which was elastic, strong and incredibly durable. Leicht implemented Hennebique technique, where singular elements such as column and beam are built as one unit.

Another notable feature of the Leitch grandstand is the roof pediment. The pediment, which was often triangle shaped was situated at the center of the roof which was aligned with the center of the football field below. Most frequently, the pediment carried both the badge and the name of the club. This was a neat move as it gave the stadium a sense of permanence.

The final identifying feature of the grandstand designed by Leitch, is the cross bracing at the edge of the upper deck. This design is still present in Goodison Park. It was unique at the time due to its practicality. It had cross steel members which carried the load form the upper deck.

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