January 12, 2014

Walkie-Talkie Building: Melting Cars and Starting Fires

20 Fenchurch Street - src
London, England - The skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street, nicknamed the Walkie-Talkie and the Pint due to its odd shape, is causing issues on the surrounding London streets. Local business owners and motorists confronted the building's developers in September of 2013 blaming the building's unique shape for starting fires and other damage due to the building reflecting the sun's rays.

While the building was only half finished, the 37-story skyscraper has been dubbed the Walkie-Scorchie due to its concave shape giving it the ability to bounce sunlight and focus it onto an adjacent street and buildings. Eastcheap business owners say that the £200 million dollar project has singed fabric, blistered paintwork, caused tiles to crack and it is not even completed yet. A motorist, parked on the street claimed that the intense heat that the building reflected light produces melted parts of his Jaguar. A barber shop owners says the intense sunlight caused his doormat to start smoldering. A journalist even managed to fry an egg with the heat produced by the building's reflection (see diagram below).

Walkie-Scorchie Diagram - src
Reflected Light - src

Raphael Viñoly

Viñoly was born in Uruguay in 1944 and grew up in Argentina where he graduated with a Master in Architecture in 1969. In 1983, after taking part in creating one of the largest architecture firms in South America, Viñoly moved to the US and was a guest lecturer the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He settle down in New York City in 1979 with his family. He founded the firm Raphael Viñoly Architects PC in 1983 and over the past 20 years they have completed projects in the United States, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

When architect Raphael Viñoly set out to design the 20 Fenchurch skyscraper, he wanted to "respect the city's historic character...while further contributing to the evolution of the high-rise building type." Originally, the top-heavy design raised a few eyebrows when it was first proposed and the plan was modified. This is not the first time one of Viñoly's buildings has created unusual light effects. The Adara Hotel in Las Vegas bounced sunlight onto tourists at its swimming pool below.

Melted Jaguar Mirror - src
Melted Jaguar Body Panel - src
Scorched Carpet - src
Its so hot you can fry an egg - src

Temperatures on Eastcheap from the reflected sun reached 70°C or 158°F. So hot you can fry an egg. Of course as the sun changes position over the sky over the course of a year, the area of London affected by the reflected light will change.

Reflected light onto Eastcheap - src

The Fix

Currently, a temporary scaffold screen was constructed in September outside the shops affected. A permanent solution to the problem includes solar shading to be applied to the tower's exterior. The cost of the solution is expected to be in the low single digit million which would come out of the project's contingency fund. Chief Executive Rob Noel has explained "When you are pushing the boundaries of physics when building these tall buildings you won't always get it right," Noel said. I'm just curious as to how this will affect the buildings exterior.

Temporary Scaffolding- src

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