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 160.

    To all those worried about the strength or durability of the design - I'm guessing each design was created in accordance with the specifications given to them by the DoE so it can hardly be the designer's fault if they have problems in future! Unless the DoE didn't provide any specifications, which can't possibly be the case ... can it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    If you ever needed proof that architects had no sense this would be it. These would be more costly to install because of deeper foundations and varying geology. The T definitely doesn't stand for taste. They are hideous. Far better solutions than this were entered. I hope this isn't another part of our cultural heritage defined by an envelope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Re: The T pylon.

    Two suspension points, one at each end of the crossbeam.

    When one breaks (it will happen) all the live cables on that side of the pole will come crashing to the ground. The resultant load at the opposite end will either fracture the centre joint or topple the pole in the direction of the unbroken suspension point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    @ 53.Graham Daniels

    The same place they buried your dictionary presumably?

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    #153 The same is surely true of the old pylon design? They'll fall over if you blow out one leg (or even stand there long enough with a hacksaw). Its a fairly pathetic terrorist strike though.... high winds and snow frequently bring down power lines. Its pretty easy to put them back up again. Using Al Qu'eda to argue against pylon design is really taking the "terror plot" too far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    how exactly does anyone plan to get a frisbee stuck up one of these.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    cheapest pylons won ? and yes. lets dig holes. dont worry about the cost or maintenance. how dreadful pylons are....lets go back to trains full of coal chugging through towns and countrysides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    New paylon design is vulnrable to terrorist attacks. Just sticking an ecplosive can bring the post down, and cut the electricity supply.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Having a turbine on the pylons would be a forward looking idea. Yes the winner is ok; simple practical and unimaginative - i.e. British for better or worse.

    "National Grid says it wants to work with Bystrup and two others" ... I see that the 2 others are based in the UK : I assume this means that the government wants some of the money to end up in the country rather than flying off to Denmark.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Splendid design; I hope its used. But they look lower, and the power lines are likely to be nearer to people than with current pylons. So, (given the inverse square law, which would presumably apply to any radiated energy which may or may not emanate from the lines themselves) prepare for usual cantankerous British objections from those who think overhead lines to be dangerous enough already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Why was it necessary to have just one winner? Everywhere to present only the one design? How Stalinist! How sad ......

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    These pylons are a massive blight on the landscape throughout the country. Just bury the cables and get it done. It would also create a great number of jobs short term, which would be very useful.

    I'm sure I've heard that paying people to dig holes and then to refill them is good way to boost the economy - here is the perfect solution - with a great (hidden) legacy for the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Well yeah they look quit nice, Very Philippe Starck/Jony Ives But surely they are All missing very simple trick here. These things are up in the sky, So wind turbines and solar energy added into the design maybe a good trick?
    Heck anything to stop these energy prices rising up and up.
    Mind you we can't stop that from happening once these get the go ahead as we will have to foot the bill for them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    I love the earring holders we'll be having, they'll match with my motorway lighting perfectly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    OK the design looks similar to those well and truly tried and trusted on the ski slopes around the world that have safely transported many millions of people
    Combined wind turbine? - maybe, but logistics of blade rotation? Possiblly small units attached to the mast. I am however not convinced of any economic viability of windpower

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    I for one will not be looking forward to seeing such an awful array of erections across the countryside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Normal pylons are far better. This thing has a more solid visually obtrusive pole than the mostly space of the proper pylons we have. Usual old story of everyone wants to be a designer not a worker, and change a practical thing for the sake of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Thanks to an expert on the Chris Evans Drivetime (evening) show a couple of years ago I am pretty sure that the "Grumpy Old Man" is not a pylon, it is a tower. It is the same shape as the Eiffel and Blackpool ones, tapering towards the top. Pylons, we were informed are the same width all the way up, like my preferred option among the new ones - the lattice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    The winning design would fail to meet the minimum safety clearance to "irrigators, slurry guns and high pressure hoses", which is 30 metres according to the National Grid spec. The height of the lowest conductor on the winning design appears to be approx 24m. So the design would only comply if they restricted access to the land area, around the pylon, to ensure the min. clearance was always met.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Well, Energy Minister, Mr Huhne - as you are on the jury for judging these designs for pylons - how much did it cost the tax-payer for your time, and these designers/architects to come up with a new pylon design?

    However, as Ministers, MPs/MEPs already claim for all their utility costs from the tax-payer already, we can be assured they will remain as detatched as you, Mr Huhne, on energy costs?


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