Competition to Find a New Design to Replace the Electrical Pylons


Photo: creative commons/flickr/anemoneprojectors

It's an icon that has been part of our lives forever... The electricity pylon was invented, in this design, in the '20's and since then it has been marching across the fields and highways of our mind and world.

Now the Royal Institute for British Architecture (RIBA) has announced a competition to design a new one. The challenge is to to 'invent a new icon' that explores the relationship between our current age of energy infrastructure and the environment.


Photo: creativecommons/flickr/didbygraham

Spare a moment for old faithful. It was a masterful design created by Sir Reginald Bloomfield in 1927. It was a tall steel tower, wide at the bottom and narrowing to the top, anchored on four separate legs for stability. Made with a delicate lattice construction, so the wind could blow through it and people could see the background and the sky.

Its design allows for variations in height, width and bulk to take account of local topography, ground conditions and the job the pylon is meant to do. It was easily maintained: engineers could climb and stand on the broad arms.

The challenge arises because of the UK's commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80%. This means electricity will become increasingly important, resulting in more pylons being required. There are already 88,000 of them in the UK and residents everywhere are opposing the construction of new ones in their backyard.

As one local councillor puts it: "How do you disguise a 50-metre pylon? Paint it green, put camouflage on it? We don't want this to happen in areas of beautiful countryside. It is a form of environmental savagery. Yes, we have to keep the lights on, but we have to realise there is a price to pay for protecting the countryside and that is burying the cables."

Putting the cables underground is not an option: it would cost too much.

Other countries have tried to find solutions. According to the Guardian, Iceland's national grid company ran a design competition last year in which "entries included pylons reconfigured to look like giants striding across the landscape holding power cables in their hands." Another looked like an organic figurative structure.


Photo: pylonofthe month

In Italy, Y-shaped pylons inspired by nature are about to go into production.

So if you have any ideas or inspiration, this is your chance to make a name for yourself for the next 75 years.

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Tags: Economics | Utilities

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