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Page 3 Profile: Rafael Vinoly, architect

Who?

He’s the man behind architecture’s burning issue of the moment: the Walkie Talkie.

Charlie Tango, over?

No, it’s the London skyscraper that’s made headlines by melting cars in the street below. The curvature of the external glass facade, you see, magnifies the sun’s rays until they’re hot enough to fry an egg.

And he’s got previous?  

Looks like it. In 2010, guests at the MGM Aria in Las Vegas began complaining of severe burns caused by the glare from the Vdara Hotel and Spa, designed by Viñoly. The rays from the so-called “fry-scraper” were so intense that one man who ended up with burns on his head and legs said his first thought was: “Jesus, they destroyed the ozone layer!”

Did he destroy the ozone layer?

No. And though you might not know it this week, he’s a very distinguished architect with many projects that don’t burn, melt or fry people, cars or eggs. The Tokyo International Forum and Pittsburgh Convention Centre are two notable examples, all glass, steel, light and air. He founded a firm at 20, and believes the purpose of architecture is to “elevate the public realm”.

Tokyo and Pittsburgh, he gets about.

He is something of a globe trotter, it must be said. He was born in Uruguay, studied in Argentina,  now lives in New York and has designed buildings on every continent.

Something of the Bond villain about him, no?

You could probably say that about most architects with their black roll-necks and their trendy specs. Just as his London edifice has  been nicknamed the Walkie Scorchie by the media, his project in Las Vegas became known as the “Death Ray Hotel”. Blofeld would be proud.

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