London’s ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper blamed for melting cars, starting small fire

Debate over a new skyscraper in London is heating up – literally.

Ultra-bright light reflected from a 37-story glass building dubbed the “Walkie Talkie” because it resembles a hand-held radio apparently melted parts of cars parked in a street below and started a small fire outside a shop.

Nearby workers complain the light bouncing off the building can be blinding. 

Developers of the $311-million unfinished building in the city’s financial district, which some have renamed the “Walkie Scorchie,” are investigating the way the concave shape reflects light and are reportedly considering a number of remedies, including adding a chemical agent to the building’s façade to reduce the glare.

“We are taking the issue of light reflecting from 20 Fenchurch Street seriously, and are looking into the matter as a priority,” joint developers Land Securities PLC and Canary Wharf PLC said in a statement.

“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.

“As responsible developers we are making every effort to keep local businesses informed and we have communicated with them regularly since the issue first appeared. While we investigate the situation further we have liaised with the City of London to suspend three parking bays in the area which may be affected.

“In addition, we are consulting with local businesses and the city to address the issue in the short-term, while also evaluating longer-term solutions to ensure the issue cannot recur in future.”

The developers paid nearly $1,555 (1,000 pounds) to the disgruntled owner of a Jaguar after intense sunlight reflected from the building melted parts of his luxury car.

"It was parked for a couple hours in the city … and it's completely warped," Martin Lindsay said. "It's absolutely ruined."

Local businesses have also complained that the concentrated sunlight from the building set fire to a doormat and melted paint and tiles on the facade of their shops.

The building, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, is due to be completed in 2014. 

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