A dramatic new skyscraper going up in London's financial district is creating such an intense zone of reflected heat from its concave design that it's reportedly able not only to fry eggs on the pavement below but melt very expensive automobiles. London businessman Martin Lindsay is quoted by the BBC as saying that a side-view mirror and exterior panels of his Jaguar were warped last week after he'd only been parked in the reflected light of the so-called "Walkie Talkie" building for a few hours.
Another witness saw the seats on a row of bicycles parked nearby made so hot by the rays that they began to smoke, reported the International Business Times. And there were other reports of damage to paint, furniture and carpet in nearby businesses from the 37-story tower dubbed the "Walkie Talkie" because of its shape. (The photo above shows the light reflected from the "Walkie Talkie" onto another building and the tower itself is pictured in the gallery below.)
While the developers of the building, the Canary Wharf Group, said in a statement that it's aware of the problem and that it will last "approximately 2 hours per day, with initial modeling suggesting that it will be present for approximately 2-3 weeks," this kind of issue is well known in the world of architecture, especially in the era of curving glass towers. The slideshow below looks as some of the most notable examples of buildings in the past 50 years that have created glaring problems -- or at least been suspected of causing them.
When Houston's Astrodome opened in 1965, proclaimed by its promoters as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," it had to have a roof that admitted enough light to keep its grass playing field green. The problem was, bright sunlight through the Astrodome's clear panels also made it hard for baseball players to catch fly balls. The problem was solved by painting over much of the roof. And when the grass died as a result of that, it led to the creation of a ninth wonder -- Astroturf.
When Los Angeles' gleaming new Walt Disney Concert Hall opened in 2003, it was soon found to be a little too gleaming by passing motorists and by neighbors in nearby condominium apartments who complained of the sunlight reflected off of its polished steel exterior. Disney Hall's neighbors also cited a hike in their air-conditioning costs, and a study subsequently determined that temperatures on the nearby sidewalk were made hot enough to "soften plastic." A tarp was hung over part of the hall as a quick fix until architect Frank Gehry agreed to take some of the shine off his acclaimed design by sanding a portion of its surface.
Before the problems at Disney Hall, critics warned that drivers could be blinded by sunlight reflected from another Frank Gehry design -- the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota -- completed in 1993. But the Minnesota Department of Transportation reportedly conducted studies of the structure and found no problem.
After the Vdara Hotel & Spa opened on the Las Vegas Strip in late 2009, its concave design was blamed for reflecting such intense light off its windows that guests lolling on the pool deck saw their plastic cups, bags and sandals melt -- not to mention complaining of being burned themselves. A film was applied to some of the Vdara's windows in an attempt to solve the problem, along with installing umbrellas and warning signs below.
The 42-story Museum Tower in Dallas has been accused of reflecting uncomfortably warm and destructive sunlight onto the Nasher Sculpture Center (shown in the foreground) that's damaging its art and gardens. The owners of the condominium complex have argued that the best solution is for the center to install a new light-filtering system, but those at the center say that this would detract from the way its galleries are lit, and do nothing to save its plantlife.