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 120.

    A Tau Cross, a sign of good things to come perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I really think you may have a fantastic idea here. Although I come from an electrical/electronics background myself, I have tried to delve and come up with some sound evidence regarding the efficiency of wind or solar power. Maybe someone could enlighten me with some factual data; else I will remain forever sceptical?

  • Comment number 118.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    #54 Wind turbines with blades over a hundred feet long generate 11,000V AC+. The ones you stick on your chimney top generate low voltage DC. For very, very obvious reasons you cannot hang 400,000V lines from full sized 5MW turbines because the blades will chop through the cables. The blades also need to rotate to face the wind. The idea of a combo pylon/turbine is grossly flawed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Any of the three pictured in the article are fine.

    People who actually *care* probably need to get a life, though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    #101 Plenty of carbon fibre aircraft though. I don't see many fighter planes having their wings snap off in flight or formula one cars or racing yachts splitting in two. DeLoreans apart I don't know of any stainless steel cars either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Typical woolly minded "competition" and solution.

    What were the design considerations?
    What stresses have to be catered for?

    Yet again design has been taken for fashion.
    These objects have to be properly engineered. Not merely look a bit better.

    If they do see the light of day then they will be heavy yet still highly stressed and subject to very damaging localized corrosion.
    Pathetic. Dumbed do

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    And just how are the linemen supposed to scale it?

  • Comment number 112.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Re: adding wind turbines.

    Wind turbines have a relatively short life span and require regular maintenance. If you put them on these pylons then you would need to shut down the electricity every time you needed to do something to the turbines. It's cheaper and much more efficient to keep the two separate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    There was a competition ??? what other shape could they have possible been. If you had asked me to design a new pylon in this modern age with new materials what other shape would I have come up with, a sixth form design class could have done this ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    The only good pylon is one in the scrapyard.

    There is no excuse for cables to be overhead with the technology available today for placing themunderground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    To everyone commenting about integrating a wind turbine functionality into a pylon design. Could work in principle, although the disadvantage would be that costs for maintaining and monitoring the wind turbine / electricity generating part of the structure would rise, because of the increased travel between pylons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Wind turbines are crucial, but are ineffecient in their present form. Why is no-one challenging that?

    Wind turbines have one huge wasted tower, with only one enormous set of blades at top. Why no turning blades, of smaller sizes, fitted at various points on the same tower linked to internal electrical shaft to maintain energy production when wind speed is too low to drive huge blades at top?!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    A missed opportunity. It seems that the visual side has totally dominated. This is only one facet of a ggod design.
    The competition was supposed to be 'grounded in reality'.
    Working at height is the biggest killer in construction and good design is legally required to take into account how things are built and maintained yet there appears no practical attention to the whole life of a pylon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    @76 "The wind turbine wouldve been much better and less of an eye sore if it were horizontal rather than vertical" Wind turbines have to be vertical because they work by the wind blowing through them. A horizontal turbine would only work if the wind blew vertically, which it doesn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.


    "The big pillons"

    What are those?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The design is not as garish as the eye-sores that currently blot our countryside, but how would 100 or so in a line look? what about if they were right over your house or garden? when a white stick is placed infront of a white background it WILL look better, but in real life these giant metal poles will still scar the beautiful landscape of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I'm really really disappointed that the 'Sail' design didn't win it. It's a lovely elegant design that I believe would be much more easy on the eye in nature and straight line and angular designs. Bad decision in my humble opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Why use steel at all? Why not carbon fibre? It doesn't rust (so no need for the insanely expensive stainless steel idea) and its lighter & stronger.

    Carbon fibre is also very brittle and fractures quite easily, and is probably more expensive than steel to produce. I would imagine all these aspects have been consider there's a reason there are few carbon fibre cars y'know.


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