Oriam Sports Performance Centre

Reiach and Hall Architects, Edinburgh, 2016


Subscribe now to instantly view this image

Subscribe to the Architects’ Journal (AJ) for instant access to the AJ Buildings Library, an online database of nearly 2,000 exemplar buildings in photographs, plans, elevations and details.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

A logarithmic curve forms the geometry of the roof 

Anton Gorlenko     Download Original

  • A logarithmic curve forms the geometry of the roof    
  • The white PVC roof    
  • The profile gives the design a memorable form    
  • The indoor pitch is the largest in Europe    
  • The building creates an interplay of light and shadow    
  • The gym    
  • The football pitch roof uses an asymmetric arch profile    
  • Tensioned PVC fabric was chosen to clad the football pitch roof    
  • The venue provides support to Scotland    
  • Level 1 plan    
  • Steel roof structure axo drawing    
  • Section    
  • Section BB    
  • Subbuteo model for competition stage    
  • Oriam south pier base study – folded Giacometti head    
  • Central pier detail    
  • South pier detail 1    
  • South pier detail 2    

Flexibility is key to the design of Scotland's national centre for football.

A building designed around Brazilian footballer Roberto Carlos’s famous spiralling free kick against the host country in the 1997 Tournoi de France is the defining feature of this £33 million sports centre. Funded with £26 million from the Scottish Government, £4 million from the university and £2.7 million from Edinburgh City Council, the building is not only Scotland’s national centre for football, it also serves the national rugby team and is the home for the governing bodies of basketball, handball, squash, racketball and volleyball in Scotland.

Housing this many different sports under one roof meant flexibility was key to the design. The centre’s huge 116m x 76m indoor 3G pitch, the largest in Europe, can be subdivided so smaller teams can use it. It also meets the requirements of international sporting bodies with the necessary run-off measurements. It seats 500 spectators. The sports halls, which cater for a wide variety of different activities feature adjustable seating. Both the pitch and the halls can be observed from the glazed café space on the floor above. A natural ventilation strategy implemented throughout the building means it provides comfortable spaces to train when weather prevents outdoor play.

With long spans and a simple but elegant diagram, the cross-section forms the principal structural concept and is arranged with steel arches spanning from buttresses on each side onto a central street of piers. The simplicity of the arrangement masks the technical challenges. The football pitch roof uses an asymmetric arch profile with a high rise:span ratio and considerable curvature, forming a highly efficient structure with a comparatively low overall weight. The arch is a naturally efficient form, allowing the structure to work primarily as axially loaded, with relatively small bending moments generated.

The roof spans a number of spaces, including structurally independent two- and three-storey buildings, the sports hall, and the main pitch. Tensioned PVC fabric was chosen to clad the football pitch roof, as it offered sufficient light transmission properties to limit the need for artificial lighting, while managing heat gain. It was also preferable in the structural design, as the fabric is lightweight and forgiving to structural movements and deflections.


  • Begun: Apr 2015
  • Completed: Aug 2016
  • Floor area: 16,500m2
  • Sectors: Education, Sports and leisure
  • Total cost: £24M
  • Procurement: Design and Build
  • Address: ORIAM, Health and Fitness, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, United Kingdom

Professional Team

AJBL Sponsor

SAS International

SAS International is a British manufacturer of interior products

Find out more