A new competition has today been launched, run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and National Grid, that calls for designs for a new generation of pylon. Pylon Design Competition challenges architects, designers, engineers and students of these disciplines to rethink one of the most crucial but controversial features of modern Britain.
There are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on National Grid's main transmission network in England and Wales. These stand some 50 metres high, weigh around 30 tonnes and carry up to 400,000 volts of electricity over thousands of kilometres of some of the most exposed, weather-beaten parts of Britain. But the familiar steel lattice tower has barely changed since the 1920s.
As well as exploring the design of the pylon itself, the competition aims to explore 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.
"Design has never been far from our energy network. The current pylon design was chosen by Sir Reginald Blomfield, a leading architect of his day back in 1927, but the familiar steel lattice tower design has barely changed since then," said Ruth Reed, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
"Architects, designers and engineers strive to improve the quality of our environments and our lives. This is a technically challenging but exciting competition, with the potential to improve our landscapes for decades to come, and I expect it to generate widespread interest."
The competition closes on July 12, with shortlisted candidates notified at the end of July. The shortlist will then have 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 (September 17-25). The judging panel will meet in October to choose an overall winner.