News / Europe

Developers Face Heat for London's Car-frying Skyscraper

Sunlight is reflected from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London, Sept. 3, 2013.
Sunlight is reflected from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London, Sept. 3, 2013.
Reuters
— A new London skyscraper that reflects sunlight at an intensity capable of melting parts of a car became the latest attraction in the city's financial district on Tuesday as the developers acted to find a quick fix.
 
The glass-clad tower, dubbed the Walkie Talkie for its distinctive flared shape, was blamed this week for warping the wing mirror, panels and badge on a Jaguar car parked on the street below the 37-story building that is under construction.
 
A camera man films broken slates outside a cafe in London, Sept. 3, 2013. Local media reported the tiles had shattered from sunlight reflected by the Walkie Talkie tower in London.A camera man films broken slates outside a cafe in London, Sept. 3, 2013. Local media reported the tiles had shattered from sunlight reflected by the Walkie Talkie tower in London.
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A camera man films broken slates outside a cafe in London, Sept. 3, 2013. Local media reported the tiles had shattered from sunlight reflected by the Walkie Talkie tower in London.
A camera man films broken slates outside a cafe in London, Sept. 3, 2013. Local media reported the tiles had shattered from sunlight reflected by the Walkie Talkie tower in London.
Business owners opposite 20 Fenchurch Street pointed to sun damage on paintwork on the front of their premises and carpet burns. TV crews fried an egg in the sun beam reflected from a concave wall of the tower watched by bemused spectators.
 
“I thought it was hot in Turkey but this is amazing,” said Ali Akay, manager of the Re-Style men's barber shop opposite the skyscraper. “The developers have promised to sort this out.”
 
Motorist Martin Lindsay said he left his car for an hour opposite the building and returned to find the wing mirror, panels and Jaguar badge had “melted”.
 
“You can't believe something like this would happen,” said Lindsay who received compensation for the damage from the developers. “They've got to do something about it.”
 
Three parking bays were closed off opposite the 239-million-pound ($371 million) tower to avoid more damage, as a steady stream of spectators observed and photographed the building.
 
“When you talk about a meltdown in the city, this is not quite what you expect,” said restaurant manager Simon Lamont. “It's not even open yet and it's notorious. They'll have to rename it the Sun Trap rather than the Walkie Talkie.”
 
The building's developers - the Canary Wharf Group which is majority-owned by Songbird Estates and Land Securities - said they would erect temporary scaffolding at street level within the next day to block the beams of light that last for about two hours a day due to the sun's current elevation.

Novel design
 
“This solution should minimize the impact on the local area over the next 2-3 weeks, after which time the phenomenon is expected to have disappeared,” they said in a statement.
 
“We are also continuing to evaluate longer-term solutions to ensure this issue does not recur in future.”
 
The Walkie Talkie, due to open in spring 2014, is one of a series of striking, modern buildings to go up in the area of London known as the “Square Mile”, where 300,000 people work in financial and professional services, with other notable towers dubbed the “Gherkin” and the “Cheese Grater”.
 
Pedestrians walk as sunlight reflects from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London, Sept. 3, 2013.Pedestrians walk as sunlight reflects from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London, Sept. 3, 2013.
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Pedestrians walk as sunlight reflects from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London, Sept. 3, 2013.
Pedestrians walk as sunlight reflects from the Walkie Talkie tower in central London, Sept. 3, 2013.
A spokesman from the City of London Corporation, which is in charge of planning and building control in the area, said City officials were working with developers to resolve the issue.
 
The architect is Uruguayan-born Rafael Vinoly and the building's concave design means developers can squeeze more money from its larger upper floors, where the views over London promise to be magnificent and rents are higher.
 
It is not the first time a Vinoly building has been linked to intense rays of sunlight. The Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas allegedly produced intense areas of heat, according to reports in U.S. media three years ago.
 
Vinoly was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
 
Building contractors suggested the developer may have to install anti-glare film on the windows, replace whole glazing panels in the problem area, or adjust the angle of the panes.
 
“Films can be difficult to retro-fit and look ugly,” said the chief executive of one major contractor. “Think what it's like trying to put a protective screen on your iphone.”
 
He said blame may be leveled at the architect or engineering companies for not spotting the problem during the design stage but, with Canary Wharf Group as the developer and main contractor, it was likely to be resolved internally soon.

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