Back in May 2011, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) – for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and National Grid – launched a competition to invite architects, designers, engineers and students of these disciplines to rethink one of the most crucial but controversial features of modern Britain: the electricity pylon. There are currently more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on the National Grid’s main transmission network in England and Wales
As the DECC Project Manager with responsibility for running the competition, it’s been an absolute joy to watch how the winning design is slowly becoming reality – the culmination of a project that has massively exceeded our expectations.
This was an unusual competition. Normally, teams are asked to put their minds to designing a building, a piece of a city, a bridge. There is a definite need for and nearly always a place where the design is to be located and respond to. In Pylons for the Future, there was no site – how were we to consider the designs?
The Totem design was conceived over numerous train journeys through the Lower Lea Valley – an area laced with high voltage power lines.