New London skyscraper, the "Walkie-Talkie," has become so angry with constant jibes about its lumpy looks that it is now taking revenge. It has started melting cars.
This week businessman Martin Lindsay has complained that sunlight reflected by the skyscraper has warped panels on his Jaguar XJ saloon after he parked in a bay under the tower, which is officially called 20 Fenchurch Street. Engineer Eddie Cannon's van suffered a similar fate, and so have bikes. The affected area of the street (Eastcheap) is experiencing temperatures that can reach up to 70 degrees centigrade on a sunny day.
The City of London Corporation has suspended parking in three bays in the way of the rays.
The Walkie-Talkie skyscraper looming over other buildings in the City of London.
(Source: Simon & His Camera via Flickr)
Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group are developing the £200 million office tower, which is due to be completed next May. They have released a joint statement saying they are working with neighbouring businesses, and are considering ways to alter the building to reduce the glare, including potentially adding a chemical film to the windows.
Their statement said the sun is to blame for the problem:
The phenomenon is caused by the current elevation of the sun in the sky. It currently lasts for approximately two hours per day, with initial modeling suggesting that it will be present for approximately two to three weeks.
This is partly correct. The phenomenon is caused by the design of the building as well as the elevation of the sun in the sky. The Walkie-Talkie has a south-facing glass façade, which means it is in the glare of the sunlight during the middle of the day. This face has a concave design that focuses the sun's rays on a specific area, and directs sunlight at the pavement.
Architect Rafael Vinoly designed the 37-storey building. It is not his first experience with the problems caused by a concave-glass front. He also designed the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas, the 1.6m square-foot resort developed by MGM Mirage that opened in 2009.
The Vdara Hotel had a concave glass front that directed sunlight towards a swimming pool area below. In this case the designers had anticipated the problem and included a chemical film on the windows to reduce the glare, but the precaution didn't work and several guests were burned. This has since been dubbed the "Vdara death ray."
The Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, home of the "Vdara death ray."
(Source: Cygnusloop99 via Wikimedia Commons)
Another building that experienced this problem was the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, which was designed by architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2003. Its curved stainless steel exterior caused problems with glare that affected motorists and nearby residents. This was fixed in 2005 by sandblasting the offending areas.
It will be interesting to see how the developers of the Walkie-Talkie fix their own death ray. Sandblasting the windows would obscure the views. Re-designing the façade would be hugely expensive. The Vdara Hotel shows that chemical films may not work. Let's hope there is a solution that will keep the developers happy and withstand the sun's power.
In the meantime, don't look directly into the death ray.
— Rich Heap, Community Editor, UBM's Future Cities