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Make models: electricity pylon competition
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Make models: electricity pylon competition

Substantial changes to our energy infrastructure are expected over the coming years as we move away from reliance on fossil fuels, and electricity will become an even greater part of our energy mix. The iconic steel lattice pylon design is familiar across the UK and has barely changed in 75 years; it is an iconic image of how electricity has influenced our lives and our landscape.

RIBA Competitions, on behalf of National Grid and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, invited designers to come up with proposals for a new generation of electricity pylon. The challenge was to design a pylon that has the potential to deliver for future generations, whilst balancing the needs of communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside.

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Taking inspiration from the spaces between pylons, in particular the catenary curves formed by the hanging cables, we created a series of beautiful, ornate structures which offer an elegant, attractive alternative to conventional pylon design. Influenced by gentle flowing forms such as spiders’ webs, ribbons or Celtic calligraphy, our simple design is sturdy and functional while appearing delicate and fragile.

Challenging the convention of standardised pylon design, we devised ten different types of pylon, each with a different and unique character but forming part of a consistent design ‘family’.

The circular, curved steel sections twist and spiral abstractly, before curving upwards to split and separate at the top, allowing spacing for the six adjoining wires. These lead off delicately like threads, continuing the curve, and combined with the long line of pylons create the effect of a continuous looping ribbon which flows loosely through the landscape without dominating it.

Appearing to rest lightly on the ground, the pylons weave unobtrusively though the landscape instead of ‘marching’ across it, thus preserving the natural beauty of the countryside. The sculptural metallic form also works sympathetically in an urban setting.