Walkie Talkie skyscraper: Faulty tower given sunscreen to stop it frying neighbourhood

Glass facade of the unfortunate curved building to be covered up as temperatures set to soar to 29C in the capital

Jonathan Owen
Wednesday 04 September 2013 14:37 BST

It has been dubbed the “Walkie Scorchie”, the new addition to London's skyline which is inadvertently creating a dangerous heat ray threatening shops and businesses in the heart of the city.

And with temperatures set to soar to 29C in the capital on Thursday, the glass facade of the unfortunate curved building at 20 Fenchurch Street is to be covered up as an emergency measure.

In a statement last night, joint developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf said: "Following approval from the City of London, we will be erecting a temporary scaffold screen at street level on Eastcheap within the next 24 hours. This solution should minimise the impact on the local area over the next 2-3 weeks, after which time the phenomenon is expected to have disappeared."

They added: "We are also continuing to evaluate longer-term solutions to ensure this issue does not recur in future."

The solution was reached after crisis talks between council officials and developers, prompted by a spate of incidents of fire and damage from the heat ray, which has reached temperatures approaching 70C.

A man reacts to a shaft of intense sunlight reflected from the glass windows of the new "Walkie Talkie" tower in central London

The glare created by the glass of the £200m building, previously nicknamed the "Walkie Talkie" because of its shape, has already melted the bodywork of vehicles in the street, set a bicycle seat smouldering and made pavements hot enough to fry an egg.

The use of nearby parking spaces have been suspended to prevent further damage to cars. Recent sunny days have seen the force of the heat cause a small fire in a local barber shop, and crack the slate tiles at the entrance to a local café.

Ali Akay, of Re Style barbers, said: "We were working and just saw the smoke coming out of the carpet. We tried to cut the fire down, there were customers in at the time and they were obviously not happy." And Diana Pham, 25, at the Viet Cafe, commented: "We thought something was burning in the restaurant but it wasn't, we searched everywhere ... a tile suddenly broke, the paint has bobbled too."

The tower has been designed by architect Rafael Viñoly. It is not the first time that one of his buildings has caused controversy – the glare reflected off the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas prompted a series of complaints from guests in 2010.

Last night experts claimed that safeguards to prevent such problems in London were dropped from early designs. Dr Philip Oldfield, an expert in tall buildings at the University of Nottingham's Department of Architecture, said: "It seems the original design included small horizontal balconies on the south façade rather than the continuous glass facade as built now. This would have surely mitigated any significant glare like we are seeing at the moment."

There are various options which could deal with the problem, including adding small "fins" to the building to provide shade, or even special coating to reduce the amount of sun reflected by the glass, he added.

Workers feel the heat as they walk through an area lit by reflecting sun glaring down from a new office building in the financial district
Crowds gather as a television crew try to fry an egg as the sun glares down from a new office building in the financial district

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