The so-called "Walkie Talkie" building in downtown London has started acting like a giant magnifying glass, and hapless Londoners are like tiny, scurrying ants.
The 37-story building under construction at 20 Fenchurch Street in London's financial district has earned the nickname "Walkie Scorchie" after the sun's rays bouncing off the building's face began burning objects across the street.
The building's façade is curved in such a way that it is acting as a concave mirror. For about two weeks in the summer, for two hours each day, the sun is aligned to the building so that its light hits a small area of the building, reflecting a very bright, very concentrated beam downward toward the street.
The light and heat reflecting off the building is so hot it has blistered paint, caused tile-work to crack, singed carpeting and warped the metal of parked cars.
Local business owner Martin Lindsay was horrified to return to his parked Jaguar XJ after an hour last Thursday afternoon to find twisted panels and melted plastic.
“They’re going to have to think of something," Lindsay said. "I’m gutted. How can they let this continue?”
The building's developers shelled out almost £1,000 to Lindsay to pay for the car's repair.
At Re Style barber shop across the street, the light burned a hole in the entry carpeting.
"We were working and just saw the smoke coming out of the carpet," said Ali Akay, an employee at Re Style. "We tried to cut the fire down, there were customers in at the time and they were obviously not happy."
"Customers are not going to come in if there is a fire in the front of the door," Akay said.
One journalist from a local paper was even able to fry an egg:
The developers of the £200 million building are considering a number of options to reduce the glare, which could otherwise become an annual issue.
One possible solution was to add a chemical agent to deflect the light, but in the meantime, the developer has erected a temporary screen to try to prevent further damage.
“As a precautionary measure, the City of London has agreed to suspend three parking bays in the area which may be affected," said joint developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf. “The developers are on the site. It’s their priority to find out more and see what kind of solution can be out into place.”
“The phenomenon is caused by the current elevation of the sun in the sky. It currently lasts for approximately 2 hours per day, with initial modeling suggesting that it will be present for approximately 2-3 weeks.