Pylon design competition winner revealed

graphic showing pylon detail

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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.

Ian Ritchie Architects' Silhouette (left) and New Town Studio's Totem

National Grid says it could work with two of the runners-up, as well as the winner

"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.

AL_A & Arup's Plexus 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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  • rate this

    Comment number 100.


    [make blades less visible...]
    "So when the blades went round they would have to keep changing colour !!"

    You should have a chameleon colony on each blade, for camoflage, but then you'd need a special species of chameleon which didn't get dizzy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    If you look at the wind turbine design, the turbine appears to have no supporting structures to suspend or fix it in the middle of the circular structure. Also, the design would not allow the turbine to rotate according to wind direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    It's obvious why the design with the integrated turbine didn't make the shortlist: you'd have to turn off the whole transmission line every time any one of the turbines needed maintenance. With hundreds of turbines on the line, the power would never be on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    If they were really smart then they would incorporate wind turbines into the design. If you are going to have to put these things up you may as well make the best use of them, and you will be connected to most of the infrastructure anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Two points.

    How would they be erected? The 'old' desigh was in pieces and little cranework was required to erect then...useful when fixing in remote windswept places.

    Are they going to cost more than the 'traditional' ones...if they are then who pays...the consumer again..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    So, on one hand we potentially improve the landscape by ridding ourselves of the old style electricity pylons, but on the other hand we blight the landscape with thousands of wretched wind-turbines!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    @ 27. Peter_Sym
    For years I've been asking why wind farms can't be painted to blend with the sky or hills better & never got a sensible answer why not.

    Well for years we've had perfectly camouflaged pylons. 'Drizzle grey' is perfect for 80% of the year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    #17 "...the country goes to hell in a handbasket and the BBC lets us comment on a pylon design."

    Why do some people think that only the single most burning issue of the day should ever be discussed here? They must lead very boring, one-dimensional lives - and want us all to do the same.

    It's a very good thing that the BBC gives people the opportunity to comment on ALL kinds of issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    and who willmake these new pylons ,and what will i cost, the present pylons seem ok and have done so so why incur big costs ,unless they nare made in england so creat jobs at homw and not on for the europeans

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Well theres a surprise .. the most uninspiring of the winning entries. I really cannot see how these are an improvement on the existing ones ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    lets face it, if they spent in the end 10 million pounds to design / develop this new pylon - that amount is actually peanuts, peanuts ,peanuts compared to the total rollout / supplying and delivering the new pylon.
    Actually, its a lovely design challenge - lets hope they get it right. Not everyone will be pleased - guarenteed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Also this design, unlike the current in common use doesn't seem scalable. The current pyramid design is very adaptable, offering many different configurations made from the same kit of parts, easily transportable to the site and easily erected AND if necessary dismantled. This design looks like a maintenance nightmare. How do you climb it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    As a Landscape Architect, I'm really pleased with the winning design. Admitedly it isn't the most stylistically progressive - but it is elegant, it shouldn't date (though only time will tell), and it isn't shouting "look at me", which many of the other designs did. Hopefully it will merge into the background, and allow the real character of the British landscape to be the main attraction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    I really hope they don't try to camouflage these new pylons by painting them.
    I've seen that done to warehouses in rural settings and the results look really naff.
    Better to have a good shape in the first place - like the "leaf/bird" design or the "sail" design.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.


    Some, somwhere will be offended by these pylons then...

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    I like the old ones. I just don't notice them.

    If you want to make them 'green' how about putting some climbing plants around the base.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    With a modern design, lets take the millenium bridge as an example, you can see how easy it is to go wrong and how hard it really is to consider all the bases and deliver a perfect design as it has to be. The winning design lacks massively any stiffness to accomendate wind side loadings from the cables. looks pretty though and nice an elegant and practical to but...

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Was there an engineer on the judging panel?

    It looks to me like the lower cables below the middle of "diamonds" will be whipped about by the wind since they have no lateral "side-to-side" support and are much further from their point of support at the top of the diamond. At present, each cable is independently attached to its support via the insulator stack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    While doing this I hope they included some wind turbines, phone masts, solar panels, bird boxes, affordable housing etc... rather than just a fancy, cheaper metal pole ...


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