Government and RIBA launch design competition to improve on 84-year old design

The electricity pylon is set to undergo a makeover after the government challenged architects to make them more attractive.

The ubiquitous 50-metre high steel lattice towers carry electricity thousands of miles around the country.

But their design is set to change for the first time in nearly 90 years after the government launched a competition to redesign them today.

There are currently 88,000 electricity pylons in the UK, but the government said the UK will need many more to meet electricity demand over the next decade.

The National Grid said it would give “serious consideration” to using the winning design in future projects.

The competition is being jointly run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Department of Energy and Climate Change and National Grid.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: “The dual challenge of climate change and energy security puts us on the brink of a new energy construction age.

“The equivalent of 20 new power stations is needed by 2020, much more beyond that, and they’ll 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: “Design has never been far from our energy network.  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.

“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.”

National Grid’s executive director UK, Nick Winser, said: “Much of the new low-carbon generation is planned for remote or coastal areas, which means new infrastructure will be needed to get the electricity we need to our homes, businesses and vehicles.

“While underground connection will be a viable solution in some sensitive locations, new and replacement pylons will be needed and National Grid is equally keen to support the development of the most visually acceptable overhead solutions.”

He added: “The pylon as we know it has served the nation well, but new technologies and materials mean there may now be opportunities for new designs.”

The judging panel, chaired by energy and climate secretary Chris Huhne and including architects Nicholas Grimshaw and Bill Taylor, will meet in October to choose a winner.

The competition closes on 12 July. For more information visit