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Turning Iceland's Transmission Towers into Frozen Giants

In Iceland, there's a plan in place to turn deadly-boring electrical towers into men of steel.
The Land of Giants™ Proposal for Landsnet, Iceland. Images: Choi+Shine Architects

Iceland is a breathtaking patch of unspoiled nature. The Northern Lights shine over ice crystals in the vast tundra; the sun caresses the rolling green hills; waterfalls crash onto rocks; a volcano is responsible for grounding European air traffic. It's the kind of vista you don't want to spoil with power lines.

Yet those ugly towers and wires are necessary, not least because electricity is more useful than spending your entire evening trying to keep a candle lit. The international architectural firm Choi+Shine has thus conceived Land of Giants, an alternative to the landscape-polluting steel behemoths that are transmission towers. Instead of standard poles, they designed a kind of silent steel giants that waltzes through the countryside.


Choi+Shine's Thomas Shine notes that most people would rather not see any power poles in their landscapes: "If you must have power lines, wind turbines, and electricity towers, at least make sure they are attractive. That is why we took these eyesores and made [them] into something beautiful."

Choi+Shine only made a few minor changes to the traditional structures, so their new designs wouldn't be much more costly than the current towers. By keeping the manufacturing simple and uniform, they further kept costs low. They used mostly recyclable materials and painted them white, instead of dull gray, so the pylons stand out against the natural Icelandic backdrop. "It has the potential to be very nice, especially against the dark volcanic rock and the gray Icelandic air," says Jin Choi. Their shape makes them dependent on the landscape. Running the wires up the mountain, then "runs" the towers over the mountain—the pylons can extend, knee, or crouch, as if burdened by the weight of the wires.

The project won a design competition sponsored by Landsnet, the operator of Iceland's electricity grid. It won several awards, including the Boston Society of Architects' for Best Unrealized Architecture. Unrealized because Landsnet hasn't yet dared to build the pylons. For now, we can therefore only marvel at digital renderings and try to imagine how breathtaking the figures would be in the landscape.


Click here to learn more about the Land of Giants proposal.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Creators Project Netherlands. 


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