Bystrup Arkitekter og Designere
The Danes have lessened local opposition to power lines by having artists design the poles.
Next year, the American Transmission Company (ATC) will start building a power line along the Beltline. It'll be god-awful ugly, but ATC could make it somewhat better by making the massive poles for the lines into works of art.
The power line shouldn't be there in the first place. Different routes were studied, but it was pretty clear to me from the start that ATC wanted it along the Beltline. The fix was in because the Beltline was the cheapest route, and they could always argue that the freeway wasn't a beautiful place anyway.
What they ignored were thousands of Madison residents who would have to live with the damn thing in their literal and proverbial backyards, as well as the unsightly mar it will make on the Odana Golf Course. I argued that it should have gone on a rural route well south of the city. There was already a power line there anyway and far fewer people would see the new one.
One reason it was easier to place it on the Beltline was an inherent anti-urbanism and senseless sentimentality about rural areas, even among city-dwellers, that permeates American culture (but that's a post for another day).
So, we're stuck with the damn thing. How to make it better?
Well, like a lot of other things, the Danes have it figured out. They've lessened local opposition to power lines by having artists design the poles. To quote from the font of all knowledge worth having, The New York Times, in a story last week:
"We've been trying to make pylons that are lightweight and colorful," (the designer) went on. "Our message is, we're bringing you power lines with arms that reach up -- with green energy."
"Unlike traditional pylons, with their latticework of gray galvanized steel, the ones that went up over Valsgard consisted of a single post, capped by a cluster of stainless-steel rods to hold wires that gleamed in bright sunshine almost to invisibility."
ATC and the Public Service Commission made the wrong choice, unnecessarily imposing an ugly mark on the Arboretum and our city neighborhoods, when they could have put the line out in the middle of nowhere where far fewer people would have had to put up with it. They should still place it underground where it passes the Arboretum and neighborhoods it would most impact. But the least they can do is take some of the sting out by designing power line poles that are pleasing to look at.