A lost opportunity?

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The winner

The recent competition to choose a new design for the electricity pylons has now announced its winner, I blogged about it a few months ago and highlighted some of the amazing designs proposed. I particularly liked the pylons shaped like people striding across the countryside. I was aware at the time that there was no way the self-appointed ‘protectors of our British countryside’ – NIMBY’s to you and me – would wear anything so exciting. So I was prepared for a less than exciting winner. I have to say however that the winner does lack a certain amount of excitement – it may become a design classic in years to come like the old pylons – but somehow I doubt it!

Danish engineering firm Bystrup beat 250 rivals to win the Royal Institute of British Architects contest. The six entries shortlisted in the competition, organised with the Department of Energy and Climate Change and energy firm National Grid, have been on show in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.The competition set the challenge to replace the familiar “triangle” design – in use since the 1920s – in May, although there is no commitment to build them.

An increasing number of pylons are expected to be needed to connect new wind, nuclear and hydroelectric plants and Bystrup say they aimed for a more positive shape than the traditional “grumpy old men” design, as they are known in Denmark, to carry new forms of renewable energy.

So much cooler!

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne praised the T-pylon as “an innovative design which is simple, classical and practical”. And I would suggest much cheaper to build than many of the entries which was probably the main criteria for National Grid!

In its favour the T-pylon is shorter than current pylons, and would therefore be less intrusive on the skyline – current units are generally about 50m (165ft) high and weigh some 30 tonnes but the 20-tonne T-pylon would stand at just 32m (105ft). The pylons can also be coloured to blend in with the countryside, while a stainless steel version for coastal areas would offer protection against corrosion from airborne salt.

I just can’t help thinking that this is yet another example of the us taking the ‘safe option’ – I still think giants striding across the fields would have looked amazing and if I am honest I still prefer the old 1920s pylons over the new ones.


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