Friday, 18 October 2013

Walkie Scorchie

Do you see that thing looming over the river? Does it get bigger as you look up? That's 20 Fenchurch Street the only skyscraper in London that does not block sunlight off the streets but reflects it back on several times brighter. Get your sunglasses. 

Designed by Rafael Viñoly, its unique shape stands out amongst the new breed of high rise that are sprouting over the City of London financial area. Apart from concerns raised by heritage groups about its visual impact on nearby historical sites it has also drawn mockery and been renamed the Walkie Talkie because of its distinctive shape. Some people even call it The Pint which I find even more appropriate.

But last summer the situation escalated when a car was found damaged in nearby street Eastcheap. Investigations followed and it was found that the reflection of sunlight on the Walkie Talkie's concave facade was generating a beam of light capable of frying an egg or even melting parts of a car's bodywork. This beam is 6 times brighter than direct sunlight shining onto the streets beneath! The media immediately came up with new names for the building, the most successful being 'Walkie Scorchie' or even better... 'Fryscraper'. Apparently, a building in Las Vegas by the same architect has a similar reflection problem and locals have dubbed it the 'Death Ray Hotel'. 

After reading the article in The Guardian, I could only see the Walkie Scorchie as a laser-equipped robot on a barbecue mission roasting cars and turning them into sausages. A bit like the War of the Worlds meets Bad Taste. However, there's more to that after what Viñoly himself saif after being questioned about the building's burning impulses. 

 "When I first came to London years ago, it wasn't like this. Now you have all these sunny days. So you should blame this thing on global warming too, right?"

Environmentalists have pointed out that the Walkie Scorchie's problem demonstrates the principles of solar power tower technology and would make a useful power source. Is the Walkie Scorchie in an environmental crusade for zapping cars off London streets then? After news like this, it definitely should. 

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