Competition to redesign the pylon

A national competition to redesign the most iconic but controversial of energy structures the pylon has been launched.

The new competition, launched today (May 23), by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and National Grid, will call for designs for a new generation of pylon.

It hopes architects, designers and engineers will rethink one of the most crucial but controversial features of modern Britain: the electricity 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 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.

A judging panel headed by energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, will decide the winner later this year.

He said: “The dual challenge of climate change and energy security puts us on the brink of a new energy construction age. The equivalent of twenty new power stations is needed by 2020, much more beyond that, and they’ll all need connecting to the grid.

“It’s crucial that we seek the most acceptable ways of accommodating infrastructure in our natural and urban landscapes. I hope the pylon design competition will ignite creative excitement, but also help the wider public understand the scale of the energy challenge ahead of us.”

RIBA president, Ruth Reed, said: “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.

“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 told results at the end of July.

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 (17-25 September). The judging panel will meet in October to choose an overall winner.

A prize fund of £10,000 will be shared amongst the winning candidates and National Grid will give consideration to developing the winning design for use in future projects.

How to enter and more information on the competition can be found on

Luke Walsh

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