Soaring into the sky, electric pylons are an intrusive element in our modern landscapes, seeming to stand as a reminder that much of the infrastructure associated with technology is not meant to be pretty. But why can’t these ubiquitous towers be both practical and aesthetically pleasing? In Iceland, the “Landsnet High-Voltage Transmission Line Tower Design Competition” challenged designers to rethink electric pylons, producing stunning contest entries like ‘Land of Giants’ by Choi + Shine Architects.
The ‘Land of Giants’ concept gives electric pylons a humanoid shape, effectively turning them into 100-foot sculptures that reach up and support the power lines. Made of the same steel frame and concrete footings that are used to build most standard pylons, these expressive figures can be arranged into various poses to change the height of the lines, from holding them over their heads to crouching near the ground. The ‘Land of Giants’ design won honorable mention in the competition as well as the 2010 Boston Society of Architects ‘Unbuilt Architecture’ Award.
Another entry, by Dietmar Koering of Arphenotype, takes a different tack. While this design arguably has less visual impact than ‘Land of Giants’, it is no less of a dramatic change from current pylon designs, especially since the architect chose to use all-new materials and construction rather than adhering to current manufacturing procedures. The pre-fabricated towers are made of “aramid-fibre-matrix bounded with eco resin through thermosetting”, which makes them weather- and UV-resistant.
Korean architect Yong ho Shin shared his second-prize-winning design with ArchDaily. ‘Superstring’ also breaks entirely away from conventional pylon designs with parabolic structures that are simple, lightweight, prefabricated and aerodynamic for easy transportation and construction as well as resistance to extreme weather conditions. With organic shapes that seem to shift depending on the perspective of the viewer, the ‘Superstring’ pylons are made of steel tubing balanced on four stay wires, allowing the pylons to flex in the wind.