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Danish practice wins 'Next generation of pylon' contest


Copenhagen-based practice Bystrup has ‘unanimously’ won the competition to design the UK’s new generation of electricity pylons

The Danes’ T-Pylon design was picked ahead of shortlisted schemes by fellow finalists Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A), Gustafson Porter, Ian Ritchie Architects, New Town Studio and Knight Architects in the competition run by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), National Grid, and the RIBA.

The design has the potential to be a real improvement on the steel lattice tower

The National Grid will work with Bystrup to develop its design further but also intends to ask Ian Ritchie Associates and New Town Studio’s Totem design to progress their designs.

Bystrup will receive £5,000 prize money with the five other shortlisted practices each scoopin £1,000.

Nick Winser, executive director, National Grid said: ‘In the T-Pylon we have a design that has the potential to be a real improvement on the steel lattice tower.

‘It’s shorter, lighter and the simplicity of the design means it would fit into the landscape more easily. In addition, the design of the electrical components is genuinely innovative and exciting.

He added: ‘However, the Totem and Silhouette designs are worthy of further consideration – both of them have strong visual appeal and characteristics that could work well in different landscapes.

‘We are genuinely delighted at the prospect of working with all three companies to develop some real options for the future.’ 

The competition to find a replacement for the iconic Reginald Blomfield’s 1927 lattice-tower design was launched back in May and attracted more than 250 entries.

The brief called for a pylon ‘that had the potential to deliver for future generations, while balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside’.

Intriguingly Bystrup’s victorious scheme only came fifth in an online poll of the shortlisted schemes, mustering just 6 per cent of the vote. AJ readers chose AL_A’s Plexus as their favourite, the sail-shaped proposal receiving 56 per cent of the vote.

The judging panel was:Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, Nicholas Winser; Master of St Cross College Oxford and former director of the V&A, Mark Jones; architects Nicholas Grimshaw and Bill Taylor; engineer Chris Wise; journalist Jonathan Glancey, landscape architect Andrew Grant, Scottish Power’s Jim Sutherland; and Ruth Reed, former President of RIBA.

Model of Bystrup's T-Pylon

Winner: Model of Bystrup’s T-Pylon

Previous story (AJ 14.09.2011)

‘Next generation pylons’: shortlist revealed

Proposals by Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A), Gustafson Porter and Ian Ritchie Architects have been included on a six-strong shortlist to design a new generation of electricity pylons

Organised by the RIBA for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the National Grid, the competition attracted more than 250 entries.

Schemes by New Town Studio, Knight Architects and Bystrup complete the shortlist in the search to find a replacement for the iconic Reginald Blomfield’s 1927 lattice-tower design.

The brief called for a pylon ‘that has the potential to deliver for future generations, while balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside’.

With the government investing in a raft of nuclear power stations and wind farms, the National Grid will need thousands of new pylons to carry power cables across hundreds of miles of British countryside.

Energy secretary Chris Huhne said: ‘Britain will see the equivalent of 20 new power stations constructed by 2020, and we need to transport this new, low carbon energy to our televisions and toasters, dishwashers and DVD players.

‘We must make sure that we take into account the visual impact on the landscape and also the view of the public, and this is what the pylon design Competition is all about.’

According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, up to 80 miles of high-voltage pylons could be built in the Lake District, 30 miles in the Mendip Hills in Somerset and around 50 miles in Snowdonia.

Scale models of the six finalists are now on show at the V&A as part of the London Design Festival. The winning proposal will be unveiled in mid-October (see full brochure with judges comments attached right).

Expert View: Hanif Kara of engineers AKT II

‘For someone who has always said that ‘the best footbridges have come out of engineers, architects and other designers collaborating’, this is an inspiring and exciting shortlist.

‘The bringing together of science, art and construction is explicit. It would be a great pleasure to experience any one of these designs in our countryside, compared to the ubiquitous, utilitarian ‘engineer-led’ objects we have at the moment.

‘Here, every gram of material matters. Amanda Levete’s ‘Plexus’, with its ‘adaptive’ response to changing forces and ground conditions while simultaneously separating the cables with a split form, is technically the most superior. However, Bystrup’s ‘T-Pylon’ is the simplest, and ‘Silhouette’ by Ian Ritchie Architects presents the most interesting reading of the group of pylons. I felt less convinced by New Town Studio’s ‘Totem’, ‘Y Pylon’ by Knight Architects, and Gustafson Porter’s ‘Flower Tower’, both technically and aesthetically.’



Readers' comments (2)

  • Each design has its own merits so wouldnt it be a nice idea to perhaps have a range of designs which reflect the landscape that they go in? Or different geographical regions having their own designs?

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  • I was delighted to be informed by RIBA that my Rebel-Relic Pylosaur pylon was the runner up to the six finalists. I was also at the presentation at the V&A. My vote goes to the T pylon, it is as minimal as can be, practical, half the price of a regular pylon and is the only pylon created by specialist pylon designers. They are Danish and great fun guys, they deserve to win. I was commissioned to design a clock for Lego so I love Denmark. The worst you can say is it’s dull but who cares, it's a pylon not a diamond ring. However the T Pylon does lack maintenance gantries so I guess any maintenance has to be done by crane or helicopter.

    I don’t think any of the others stand a chance of going into production on costs alone, in my view all are style over content and most seem to me to be incapable of mass-production, unless you want to risk going bankrupt trying. I think all except T pylon are totally impractical. If you want a quick idea of what the brief was all about go to my site, it’s all there, easily explained and it is a fascinating brief.

    I'm not an architect but a product designer who has worked extensively with Disney, Warners, Hasbro and Mattel character merchandise and I hope it shows. Whatever else they are, Pylosaurs are the only killer pylons in the contest - check them out.

    Who knows what will actually be produced but pray that Pylosaurs aren’t unleashed to roam the Earth, they are far too dangerous and despite what you may think they actually encourage alien invasion. However they are as cheap as chips, assemble faster than an Ikea wardrobe without the need for a telescopic crane and are portable. You can't buy them in B&Q yet but be warned, pet Pilosaurs are not just for Christmas.


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