National Grid ‘Pylon for the Future’ competition shortlist…

What might seem like one of the most boring and insignificant architectural and engineering design competitions, could actually be affecting people’s lives for the next 100 years.

There has been huge debate about the impact of wind farms on the landscape but rarely do you hear the uproar over what is terrible and permanent blight to our landscape – the National Grid electricity pylons.

So, a competition was launched and 250 entries were received, resulting is 6 shortlisted designs, 3 of which are shown below.

Ian Ritchie Architects: Producing a dynamic silhouette, the pylon exaggerates its reach to the sky, sometimes appearing as a full black lance and other times as a thin sliver, like a single brushstroke on a canvas. The pylon becomes an animated character in the landscape… part of a series or pattern… while the convex exterior skin reflects its surroundings. The landscape exists within the pylon as the pylon exists within the landscape.

Gustafson Porter: Flower Tower expresses the transmission of energy through forms associated with nature. In elevation, the Flower Tower reads like a bouquet of flowers or leaves. The bunching together of several ‘stems’ creates structural stiffness at the base. These stems are tied together by connecting plates and horizontal bridges which allow access to maintain the cables. Arcs defined by the cable clearance swings generate curving ‘leaves’, which splay out from the stem. The earth wire is held by a spike or ‘flower’ at the top of the tower.

AL_A Arup: Plexus creates a poetic dialogue between structure and landscape. Its shape responds to changes in topography, striding across the horizon in sequence with a lightness and grace. Although seemingly filigree in nature, these pylons have been designed for resilience, adapting to different site conditions by expansion and contraction of the arced form. The pylons fluctuate in size and profile, visibly mapping the terrain.

I would certainly not be disappointed with either Arup’s or Ian Ritchie’s offering repeated thousands of times across our countryside. The ‘burying cables’ option will almost certainly be too expensive and also actually damaging to green structures. The disruption and damage caused to the landscape would be huge.

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