The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) issued a challenge to design a replacement for the existing stock of 86,000 rusting electrical pylons across Great Britain for the year 2050. ORE’s PYLON evolves the traditional pylon design to reflect contemporary concerns and material possibilities.

To project itself into the future, ORE looks to currently developing construction technology utilizing carbon fiber spun from CO2 captured in the conventional coal-fired production of electricity. The carbon fiber is woven to create structural members, giving PYLON a shape that dynamically engages with the surrounding environment. The existing pylon form, in use for decades, is made of steel and sits on top of the landscape as a utilitarian object. Current carbon fiber technology is much lighter than steel, as well as being naturally weather-resistant, ductile, and non-conductive.

The choice of carbon fiber was not solely based on its superlative qualities as a construction material, but also as a statement about the history, and future, of carbon emissions in the UK. By using carbon fiber, we are literally sequestering carbon in a static form, countering the atmospheric carbon that has been released since the Industrial Revolution. PYLON is both an iconic expression of robust material as well as a practical reaction to the last 150 years of British carbon emissions.

PYLON’s skin openings and offset woven members create nesting areas for birds. By “slicing” into the skin of the pylon, small perforations are created which become nesting platforms for local bird populations. These include kestrel and other raptors, as well as kingfisher and other species. Because the carbon fiber composite is non-conducting, the limb-like tendrils create a safe, opportune place for birds to nest. The proposed design transforms the very idea of a pylon, from an obstruction in the natural world into an enhancement.

Client: Royal Institute of British Architects International Competition 2012
Program: High-Tension Power Line Infrastructure for the UK
Area: 86,000 Pylons
Status: Concept
Awards: Finalist in Royal Institute of British Architects International Competition 2012