A prize fund of £5,000 will be awarded to the winner and £5000 split between the five runners-up.

Stage 1: Six pylons will be short listed to go through to stage two.

Stage 2: Grid experts work with the finalists to brush up their designs and six models are created.

These go on show at the V&A before the RIBA Pylon Finalists are judged by and expert panel.


The UK wants an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. Moving away from fossil fuels wind-farms and the like need to be linked to the grid.

The steel lattice pylon has barely changed in 75 years and throughout the world the majority of electricity pylons are of similar construction.

The RIBA Pylon Competition invites architects, engineers, designers and university level students to come up with proposals for a new electricity pylon. The challenge is to design a pylon that not only works but countryside communities prefer to the traditional pylon.

The RIBA Pylon Competition is being organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Competitions on behalf of the Department of Energy & Climate Change and National Grid.

The public will be invited to comment on a website.

The RIBA Pylon Competition panel of experts is drawn from the architecture, design and engineering worlds, together with leaders from the energy industry will judge the final winner. The panel of judges will be chaired by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne.

The traditional lattice design is easy to climb and maintenance. and components can be replaced individually. Engineers can switch off one circuit on one side of the pylon and work safely while the circuit on the other side remains live.

A number of innovative alternative pylon designs have been considered, and National Grid has developed a single-pole design for new power line projects, with little public support and most people prefer the traditional lattice pylon.

History of UK Pylons

1926 Electricity (Supply) Act creates a Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB).

1927 CEGB commissioned architect Sir Reginald Bloomfield QA to design high-voltage pylons standing 300 yards apart, that would be as unobtrusive as possible resulting in Sir Reginald, introduced the US Milliken brothers pylon to Britain.

1933 the first national network was complete, with 3,000 miles (4,800km) of power lines transmitting electricity at 132kV (132,000 volts).

1950 new, much larger pylons were needed to keep up with demand and the basis of what we use today was developed.

The steel lattice tower is efficient, carrying the weight of the high tension conductors and insulator strings and withstanding gale force winds, ice, snow, floods and lightning strikes and pylon legs are rooted in concrete foundations.

Britain’s tallest pylons are 630ft (192m) either side of the River Thames at Dartford in Kent. Most pylons are suspension towers, where the conductors hang from vertical insulators suspended However tension towers or angle towers are used where lines change direction.

The RIBA Pylon Competition

The new pylon design should be based on:
Nominal voltage: 400kV
Number of Circuits: 2
Number of phases: 3 per circuit
Number of earth wires 1-2 dependent on design to ensure adequate lightning protection
Maintenance must be possible on one side of the pylon at a time – in other words, with one single circuit outage while the other circuit is live. Work on earth wires is also carried out with a single circuit outage.

A new design may also accommodate fibre-optic communication cables built into the earth wire running from the top of one pylon to another, and mobile phone aerials may also be bolted to the pylon.

The RIBA Pylon Competition Judging Panel:

Chris Huhne
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Bill Taylor
Architect and RIBA Adviser

Nick Winser
Executive Director UK, National Grid

Ruth Reed, President RIBA
Sir Mark Jones, Director V&A Museum

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw
Partner, Grimshaw Architects

Chris Wise, Director, Expedition Engineering

Jim Sutherland
Network Development Director, ScottishPower

Jonathan Glancey
Architecture and Design Correspondent, The Guardian

The Jury Panel will be supported by a technical assessment panel which will include:

Bill Taylor, Architect and RIBA Adviser

Denise Libretto
Head, Electricity Networks (Planning & Consents) DECC
Boud Boumecid, Asset Policy Engineer, National Grid.


Other Pylons

Hugh Dutton Associates Pylon
Norman Foster Pylon
Choi + Shine Architects Pylon
Mark Barfield Pylon
Dietmar Koering Pylon
Deep Blue Architects Pylon
Wintrack pylons designed by Zwarts & Jansma
LDC Pylon
Gavin Schaefer Pylon
Trilon Pylon
Urban Surgeon Pylon
Jon Mills Pylon
Satmoko Pylon
Stark Partnership Pylon
Philip Katz Pylon

Pylon Quotes


They’re not extinct, they still exist,
The National Grid’s endangered list
Claims the one we’ve got in our backyard’s exotic.
Architecturally rejected
He was naturally selected
Is he dangerous? He’s certified psychotic!

Crushed, recycled, galvanised,
He’s got a chip, it’s no surprise,
Shipped from China by container to the West,
Cramped and angry in his crate,
When he emerged and stretched up straight
A thunderbolt of lightning did the rest.

He’s a predator, a carnivore
A Rebel Relic Pylosuar,
I call him Blitz because he never waits.
To grill his prey or toast ’em,
Barbecue or Sunday roast ’em,
With four hundred thousand volts he just cremates.

Any birthday guests are new,
None return and nor will you,
Play with him and it will be your last mistake.
No joke, they’ll be no laughter,
When you’re for dinner after
Glowing brighter than the candles on his cake.

Stamp your feet, protest and moan
But leave our Pylosaurs alone,
’Cos when alien invaders fill the skies,
We’ll be counting on the few,
Blitz’s Rebel Relic Crew,
To serve up instant crispy alien Martian fries.


Rebel Relic Pylosaurs
RIBA Runner-up out of 250 entries
© Colin O'Donoghue 2011 All Rights Reserved
Patent Pending

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