Support Peter Womersley's Architectural Legacy

The Rig

James Colledge: A Recollection of The Rig, Gattonside

Published in the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland magazine,
Autumn 2018 edition

Having rounded the tightest of hairpin bends, the road drops down towards a sharp left-hand turn. Before reaching it, there is just enough space to park without blocking the road. A quick glance to the left reveals a carport, backed by a wall made of delicate dusky pink brick. The convertible’s there. He’s probably in.

Having parked, you walk up the covered path, with the same elegant white supports and angular canopy as the carport, which reveals an orchard setting as it gently rises, and you glimpse a modernist structure that sits graciously in its midst.


(Image credit: Architectural Digest)

There is a rectangular pond to the right, with a restrained population of water plants. Are there also fish? To the left, what must be the least likely and most secluded suntrap in Scotland: even a hint of afternoon sun beckons the owner to this private enclave, shorts and espadrilles the only clothing required.

Ahead, the building sits almost transparently in its orchard, extensive glass both reflecting the scene and absorbing it, as if you are looking through it to the trees beyond. The front door sits open at the end of the covered walkway.


On entering, a dining area and kitchen to the left , well equipped but perhaps little used, reveal a passageway leading to the bedroom. At the entrance to it, looking up, you spot an exercise bar anchored to the ceiling, bound in sisal cord, well used and worn to a smooth and comfortable patina.

There are no doors or barriers to block the flow from space to space.

To the right, bordered by a set of low wood-finished cupboards, is the living room. Stepping down a double step, facing an open hearth, you find the perspective subtly changed. Beyond the fireplace, looking out to the orchard, the view from here is as transparent as that from the outside. This is a building that inhabits its space as if mandated by nature.

The furnishings in the sitting area are all fitted, perfectly proportioned. The natural finishes reflect a rich palette of tones perfectly matched to its environment. The wooden floors provide continuity through the spaces.

Turning left, rising up again to its original level, a study houses a working space and eclectic record collection from Pergolesi to Peggy Lee; an Eames chair finishes the sense of a perfect retreat for the single occupant.

An opening to the left completes the circuit around the central core, where bathroom, toilet and utilities are housed. Leaving the living area with the kitchen now on the right, you look through the front door and spot the guest accommodation at the end of the sun terrace, the other side of, and support for, the carport.


This is The Rig, in the Scottish Borders village of Gattonside, home of renowned architect Peter Womersley. Built in 1957, now Category ‘B’ listed, it was his sole Scottish residence and workplace from then until his permanent departure from the Borders to live in Hong Kong in the late 1970s.