Architects, designers, engineers and students of these disciplines are being challenged to rethink one of the most crucial but controversial features of modern Britain: the electricity pylon.
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.
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 50m high, weigh around 30t 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.
“The dual challenge of climate change and energy security puts us on the brink of a new energy construction age,” said energy 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.”
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) president Ruth Reed added, “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.”
The competition closes on 12 July, with shortlisted candidates notified at the end of July.