New Pylon Design

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the National Grid, the visible and enduring symbol of which has to be the humble pylon, or Transmission Tower, as it should more correctly be known…

As long ago as 1926, the Central Electricity Board (CEB) was created by an act of Parliament, an act which then paved the way for the creation of The National Grid, a huge undertaking that was envisaged as a system of aerial borne cables linking power stations not only to each other, but to towns and cities across the country. The decision to use overhead cables rather than bury then underground was based predominantly on the speed with which the system needed to be up and running, and (unsurprisingly in Interwar Britain) the cost of getting it done.

According to the RIBA’s competition website, 88,000 pylons march up and down this green and pleasant land, most of them being simple modifications and variations of the original 1928 concept proposed by an American Engineering company and chosen by the staunchly traditionalist architect Sir Reginald Blomfield (think Regents Street, 19th century Country Mansions and numerous WWI Memorials) possibly not the most obvious of choices for something so cutting edge, but certainly an Edwardian Gentleman of impeccable taste and social standing…

Back in May of this year, and in response to a growing murmuring to update the appearance of the pylon, the RIBA announced a competition to produce a modern and contemporary design that would provide “a new generation of pylon; setting a challenge ….. that has the potential to deliver for future generations, whilst balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside”.

A tough challenge indeed and judging by some of the more than 250 entries, not one that many people rose to.

You can see the six short listed entries here, one of which will be crowned the winner later this month. They are all very proper, functional and elegant and with the possible exception of No. 5 (which is rather silly) would not look out of place carrying our power around… and indeed, I’m sure the winner will become to be as much loved/ hated as the current (and in my opinion rather excellent) design…..

To finish I’ve selected (in no particular order) some of the more bizarre, inappropriate and amusing designs that were submitted. It will never cease to amaze me how so many different interpretations of one brief can be generated…


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