Wintrack, a new silhouette

They are all over the world, those steel giants, made up of triangles, their two pairs of outstretched arms hovering over the landscape, carrying the high voltage cables in a tireless gesture. They do so over muddy fields, past cities and industrial sites and through green valleys. Regardless of its familiar and recognizable look, this classical industrial design, the framework pylon, is in need of an update after its invention about a century ago. Commissioned by TenneT, ZJA Zwarts & Jansma Architects designed new high voltage pylons to replace the standard framework pylons in the network in the western urban part of the Netherlands, the Randstad.

First of all the new Wintrack pylons are less space consuming. They are tapered papyrus-white masts in pairs that carry the cables with short arms and so-called suspenders in between and close together. This is an improvement because of the narrower magnetic field generated in this constellation. Because a safe zone is required around this magnetic field, a reduction of it allows useful space to be gained in the Randstad.

The new high voltage pylons have a minimum of protruding elements and are built of parts that fit smoothly into each other using internal joints. The coating of the masts is done in a layer of durable lacquer with a satin shine. Climbing the pylons is possible only by using a special high step rail system, which makes it virtually impossible for trespassers to climb the mast.

Integration into the landscape

The slender, papyrus-white pylons are integrated into the landscape more easily, minimizing the disruptive influence of the necessary energy supply on what everybody considers a unique part of the national heritage: the characteristic Dutch landscape. Despite all the technical requirements that come into play with these complex constructions the design stayed true to the values of simplicity and clarity. Thanks to the internal joints that hold the pylon together the pylons have a smooth look. This results in a slender silhouette. All the security features such as isolators, lightning conductors, mechanical wave interrupters attached underneath the cables to prevent so-called conductor gallop caused by high winds and ice, are designed to fulfill their function with minimal visual impact. This results in an unobtrusive mast that even has an intriguing elegance and simplicity when one pays attention to it.

There is quite a lot of technology and ingenuity hidden inside the family of Wintrack pylons that ZJA designed for TenneT. These tall, slender pylons transport huge quantities of electricity, not just the regular voltage but also double that amount or a combination of regular and middle high voltage. All these different combinations demand different pylons, because they all have specific technical and constructive requirements when it comes to the trusses, the suspenders, the isolators and the pylons used to turn corners and to control cable tension. The objective was to progress from the wide, sturdy industrial gestures of the framework pylon to the modest, slender needles of the Wintrack pylon that merge into the landscape. The beauty here lies in the seemingly effortless and simple solutions to hide all these enormous forces, powers and technical details from sight, in a safe and functional way.

Winner Dutch Steel Award 2016

Client: TenneT
In collaboration with DNV-GL (KEMA).

Project: #424

Photographs: TenneT/Chris Pennarts, Tom Bakker