Traders and hedge fund managers in the City of London are often accused of having contempt for the common man, but few would have expected such a brazen attack on the capital’s pedestrian masses as was staged this week.
Twenty Fenchurch Street, a new skyscraper which resembles a walkie-talkie and is supposedly designed to “respect the city’s historic character”, has been firing what was described as a “solar death ray” of up to 70C on to the streets below, melting bicycle seats, destroying an expensive car, scarring shop fronts and even frying eggs.
Now the architect behind the so-called “Walkie Scorchie” has claimed its design flaws are due to a surfeit of consultants on the £200m project, and launched an astounding attack on the architectural profession in Britain.
Uruguayan Rafael Vinoly told the International Herald Tribune’s Visionary Cities event that the likely problem with solar reflection – sending a beam of sunlight on to the road below for up to two hours a day – was spotted early in the design phase. The veteran architect admitted: “The calculations said it was only going to be 36 degrees, but in fact it’s 72.”
Amid claims from sources close to the project that cost-cutting revisions to the original plans exacerbated the issue, Mr Vinoly said: “One of the problems that happens in this town is the superabundance of consultants and sub-consultants that dilute the responsibility of the designers until you don’t know where you are.
“Architects aren’t architects any more. You need consultants for everything. In this country there’s a specialist to tell you if something reflects. It’s the fault of the architectural discipline which has cast itself into a completely secondary thing.”
The developers, Land Securities and Canary Wharf, have erected scaffolding and a temporary black sun screen above the affected area, where the shops exhibit blistered paintwork, burnt carpets and shattered tiles. They claim the solution will minimise the impact on the area for two to three weeks while the “phenomenon” continues.
The companies have also agreed to pay £946 to Martin Lindsay, who parked his Jaguar on Eastcheap and returned two hours later to find its wing mirror and badge had melted.
“You can’t believe something like this would happen,” Mr Lindsay said. “They’ve got to do something about it. It could be dangerous. Imagine if the sun reflected on the wrong part of the body.”
The City of London Corporation has temporarily suspended three parking bays to avoid further damage to cars.