Beautiful infrastructure puts people first

electricity pylon infrastructure

If it’s possible to beautify an electricity pylon, why shouldn’t all infrastructure be elegant? Indeed, when physical and organisational facilities exist to serve people, and most should, beauty should perhaps be an imperative.

Iceland has commissioned highly sculptural electricity pylons that resemble giant human figures striding across the countryside. The metallic structures are a powerful metaphor for our consumption of natural resources, but at the same time beautiful to behold and a world away from the brutal-looking structures that usually do the same job.

When it comes to the way we design our towns and cities, today’s increasingly homogenised urban areas favour cars and commerce over people. Even pedestrianised areas are devoid of the public seating, loos and trees that encourage people to stop, talk and play. However, while the pursuit of profit undoubtedly drives the design of pedestrianised areas as corridors to corral shoppers towards their next purchase, it need not be barrier to people-centric infrastructure.

The emerging mega cities of the far east are embracing a futuristic and tech-driven view of urban design replete with ever more fanciful skyscrapers and even soon-to-be-launched autonomous taxi drones. However, there is an alternative path. Scandinavian countries have at the same time been refining a people-centric approach to urban design. So widespread are cycles and cycle lanes throughout the city that the term ‘Copenhagenize‘ has come to meet adding bicycle infrastructure to a city.

A sculptural electricity pylon recognises the fact the delivery of energy needn’t come at the cost of landscape views. Likewise, urban cycle racks can be designed to provide a physical barrier between pavements and traffic while at the same time adding a flourish of colour to the cityscape. Both examples take a holistic approach to design. The Nordic approach to urban design goes far beyond moving from cars to walking and cycling.

This cycle rack provides a robust physical barrier to protect pedestrians from cars as well adding a flourish of colour

For example, The Five Finger Plan focusses on metropolitan train lines, which spread like fingers on a hand from the palm of central Copenhagen. The plan also gives life to green spaces. The approach caters to people ahead of cars and this allows a greater focus on beauty.

It’s of vital importance because by 2050, around 70 per cent of people will be city dwellers. And the majority of them will be under 18. Today, over one billion children are growing up in cities.

Creating a city that nurtures children instead of literally treating them like a pest is about more than provision of play areas. The air pollution and road danger caused by motorised traffic has a disproportionate effect on children. Furthermore, transport is now responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other source; our children will reap the effects of climate change to a greater extent than older generations.

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  1. Mary Fisher


    Oh I’d welcome any design of pylon to get away from the ugly ones we see daily. Iceland’s example is beautiful! People complain about what they see as ugly wind generators, which I think are elegant, but never mention far uglier constructions such as pylons.And most road traffic. People too …

  2. Daz


    Let me get this straight Iceland had to get bailed out during the credit crunch and can not afford to pay it back but can get these conditioned. But I do think they look great

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