Electricity pylon design challenge to explore relationship between energy infrastructure and environment

Pylon redesign competition launched

A competition calling for architects, designers and engineers to redesign the electricity pylon has been launched.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and National Grid have teamed up to run the competition calling for fresh designs of a new generation of pylon.

"The dual challenge of climate change and energy security puts us on the brink of a new energy construction age," said energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne.

"The equivalent of twenty new power stations is needed by 2020, much more beyond that, and they’ll all need connecting to the grid.

"I hope the pylon design competition will ignite creative excitement, but also help the wider public understand the scale of the energy challenge ahead of us."

There are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on National Grid’s main transmission network in England and Wales.

The design of the steel lattice tower pylons has barely changed since the 1920s since the design chosen by Sir Reginald Blomfield, a leading architect of the day.

 Most are around 50 metres high, weigh around 30 tonnes and carry up to 400,000 volts of electricity over thousands of kilometres over Britain.

The competition aims to explore pylon design as well as the relationship between energy infrastructure and the environment within which it needs to be located.

The challenge is to design a pylon that has the potential to deliver for future generations, whilst balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside.

"It’s crucial that we seek the most acceptable ways of accommodating infrastructure in our natural and urban landscapes," Huhne added.

National Grid’s executive director UK, Nick Winser, said that with much of the new low-carbon generation planned for remote or coastal areas,  new infrastructure will be needed to transport electricity.

"While underground connection will be a viable solution in some sensitive locations, new and replacement pylons will be needed and National Grid is equally keen to support the development of the most visually acceptable overhead solutions.

"The pylon as we know it has served the nation well, but new technologies and materials mean there may now be opportunities for new designs," he said.

The competition closes on 12 July, with shortlisted candidates given the opportunity to work with National Grid before submitting their final designs at the beginning of September.

The designs will be open for the public to view and comment on via the competition website and also at an exhibition to be held at the V&A as part of London Design Festival in September.

An overall winner will be chosen in October by the judging panel including Huhne, Winser, director of the V&A Sir Mark Jones, architects Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and Bill Taylor, engineer Chris Wise, and a RIBA senior representative.

A prize fund of £10,000 will be shared amongst the winning candidates and National Grid could develop the winning design for use in future projects.

"Architects, designers and engineers strive to improve the quality of our environments and our lives," said RIBA president Ruth Reed.

"This is a technically challenging but exciting competition, with the potential to improve our landscapes for decades to come."

Further information:

Find out more about the pylon design competition

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