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Pylon design competition winner revealed

  • 14 October 2011
  • From the section UK
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graphic showing pylon detail

A T-shaped design has scooped a £5,000 prize in a competition to find the next generation of electricity pylons.

Danish engineering firm Bystrup beat 250 rivals to win the Royal Institute of British Architects contest.

It set the challenge to replace the familiar "triangle" design - in use since the 1920s - in May, although there is no commitment to build them.

An increasing number of pylons are expected to be needed to connect new wind, nuclear and hydroelectric plants.

Time for T?

Bystrup's architect Rasmus Jessing said he aimed for a more positive shape than the traditional "grumpy old men" design, as they are known in Denmark, to carry new forms of renewable energy.

"Hopefully in the next couple of years it will be time for T - the T-pylon," he said.

Six entries shortlisted in the competition, organised with the Department of Energy and Climate Change and energy firm National Grid, have been on show in London's Victoria and Albert Museum. The five runners-up received £1,000 each.

The jury - which included Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, leading architects and energy officials - rated entries on design quality, functionality, and technical viability.

After calling for entries to be "both grounded in reality and beautiful", the judges took into account the public response to the designs and the teams' abilities to create them.

'Ingenious structure'

Mr Huhne praised the T-pylon as "an innovative design which is simple, classical and practical".

"Its ingenious structure also means that it will be much shorter and smaller than existing pylons and therefore less intrusive," he added.

Image caption The five runners-up were awarded £1,000 each

There are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, carrying up to 400,000 volts of electricity over thousands of miles.

Most are about 50m (165ft) high and weigh some 30 tonnes but Bystrup says the 20-tonne T-pylon would stand at just 32m (105ft).

The pylons could be coloured to blend in with the countryside, while a stainless steel version for coastal areas would offer protection against corrosion from airborne salt, it says.

National Grid says it wants to work with Bystrup and two others: Essex-based New Town Studio - which designed the lattice-framed Totem pylon - and Ian Ritchie Architects, of London, with its sleek Silhouette.

Organisers say the target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 will lead to electricity playing an increasingly important role in the UK's energy mix.

A subsequent proliferation of pylons and underground cables "have the potential to transform our landscapes for good or bad, and for generations to come", they said.

Repair costs

Campaigners frequently complain that pylons blight the countryside, while Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt described damage they cause as "beyond belief" in a Parliamentary debate in July.

However, National Grid says it is 10 times as expensive to lay underground cables which are also more difficult and costly to repair.

And the 1920s pylons retain some fans.

Flash Bristow, from the Pylon Appreciation Society, said they were an "elegant engineering solution".

"Existing pylons I appreciate because they're a lattice design, so when you look at the pylon what you see, a lot of it, is actually the background coming through."

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