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New London Building is a Scorcher

Friday, September 6, 2013

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The architect whose glass "death ray" hotel exterior was accused of melting cups and burning guests in Las Vegas is now building a high-rise that is reportedly searing cars and shops in London.

Reports say light reflecting off the unfinished 20 Fenchurch Street skyscraper’s glass façade has “melted” parts of a Jaguar parked nearby, and neighboring shops say the glare has sizzled their stock.

20 Fenchurch Street building

Matt Buck / Flickr

Set for completion in early 2014, the 20 Fenchurch Building in London is allegedly melting cars and objects below due to a solar phenomenon.

The British City A.M. newspaper first reported the incident Monday (Sept. 2).

The ‘Walkie Talkie’

Designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, the 160-meter-tall (525 feet) building, nicknamed the “Walkie Talkie” by  locals, features 34 stories, a reflective surface, and concave design along its southern elevation. The building is set to be completed in Spring 2014.

The project description on Vinoly’s website says “the concave form and horizontal elements help to provide shade.”

Some car owners and nearby businesses disagree.

City A.M. later reported that temperatures in the beam of light at street level reach nearly 70 degrees Celsius, or 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

Car Owner ‘Gutted’

“I’m gutted,” Martin Lindsay, the Jaguar owner, told the City A.M. paper. “How can they let this continue?”

The BBC later Tweeted a photo of the warped Jaguar.

tweet from BBC

BBC London / Twitter

Lindsay said he had left his car for an hour opposite the building and when he came back, the wing mirror, Jaguar badge, and panels had “melted.”

Since Lindsay's plight was publicized, others who park near the building have come forward, saying their cars were also damaged by the sizzling reflections, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the manager of a nearby salon told The Guardian that the supercharged ray had caused damage to the business.

“It’s burned a hole in our carpet, blistered the paintwork around our door, and ruined whole shelves of hair products,” Ali Akay, 22, manager of the Re-Style salon, told the news bureau.

Developers Investigating

In an e-mailed statement, the building’s developers, Land Securities and Canary Wharf said they were investigating the matter “to ensure the issue does not recur in the future.”

“As a precautionary measure, the City of London has agreed to suspend three parking bays in the area which may be affected.”

By Thursday (Sept. 5), reports indicated that a temporary shield of green and black netting had been erected in order to block the glare.

Kris1123 / Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, reflections off the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, also designed by Rafael Vinoly, reportedly sizzled guests on the pool deck. Locals called it a "death ray."

The developers said the phenomenon was 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 2-3 weeks,” the developers said.

Similar Glare in Nevada

The Walkie Talkie Building, now called "Walkie Scorchie," is not the first Vinoly-designed structure to harbor such scorching glares.

In 2010, reflections off the 57-story Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas, NV, caused a similar solar phenomenon.

Local reports said hotel guests complained of scorching burns, while plastic drink cups, flip flops and shopping bags melted on the pool deck below the massive structure.

It is unclear whether coatings will figure into either buildings’ long-term solution, so for now, guests and residents are to watch where they park and wear sunscreen.

When contacted by D+D News, the architecture firm forwarded the message to the London developers, responsible for media comments.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural coatings; Architecture; Color + Design; Design; Glass; Health and safety

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/6/2013, 8:16 AM)

Looks like London has a much more efficient solar concentrator than Las Vegas! Smaller collector area, less sunlight due to the latitude and general cloud cover, lower ambient temperature - and yet producing a more impressive melting performance!

Comment from Chuck Pease, (9/6/2013, 10:39 PM)

Wha I dont get is why is this called out in 2 different sentences as being a "phenomenon" defined as:a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, esp. one whose cause or explanation is in question. Cause is in question? Hell when I was a kid I used mirrors and magnifying glasses to scorch model cars and insects. I know dont hate me for being a kid once :) Seems with all of the acedemic scholars of the world we really wouldn't be scratching our heads on this one. We put men on the moon and no one can put 2 x 2 together. Ha ha ha

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/12/2013, 4:49 PM)

“Phenomenon” = “An effect the Architect did not think about prior to building.”

Comment from Joseph Smith, (9/13/2013, 5:50 PM)

Did not think about it,,,,,,or did he??? Sounds like a great way to get one's name out into the world and to stamp one's existence in history

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