For the next three weeks, Londoners and tourists will have the chance to marvel at the city’s latest attraction: A beam of light so hot it melted parts of a Jaguar sports car and sparked a fire at a local barber shop.
On the hottest September day in seven years, office workers and tourists jostled for space yesterday on Eastcheap in the City of London financial district to see the curved 37-story Walkie Talkie skyscraper focus a ray of light that was measured at more than 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit).
“It’s a tourist attraction,” John Bent, a financial-services worker, said in an interview in the tower’s dazzle. “You can’t stand here. The view is that in two or three weeks, with autumn coming on, the sun will drop sufficiently to take this phenomenon away.”
One man tried to fry an egg in the beam while others, including Bent, 51, carried thermometers to record the temperature on bicycle seats in the tower’s glare. His reached 107 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, while Martin Kicks’ hit 117 degrees Celsius yesterday. Water boils at 100 Celsius. Local media have re-nicknamed the building “Fryscraper” and “Walkie Scorchie.”
The beam from the 20 Fenchurch Street tower, whose nickname derives from the tapering design responsible for focusing sunlight below, has melted parts of vehicles. The beam depends on the sun’s elevation in the sky and lasts about two hours a day at this time of the year, according to Land Securities Group Plc (LAND) and Canary Wharf Group Plc, the building’s owners. Modeling indicates the ray may last until October.
“If they had a black-slate slab, I’d dare say with 117 degrees Celsius you could probably do a decent medium rare steak,” Kicks, a 50-year-old freelancer for London Marine Consultants, said on Eastcheap.
A doormat at the Re-Style barber shop on Eastcheap caught fire and left a scorch mark. Scaffolding with black screens has been put up on Eastcheap around the entrances to Re-Style and a Vietnamese restaurant that’s also in the beam’s path.
The temperature in London yesterday was about 29 degrees Celsius, the hottest in the U.K. capital for September since 2006, according the U.K.’s Met Office weather agency.
Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group earlier this week said they were examining the phenomenon and, along with the City of London, blocked three parking spaces around the building to avoid further damaging vehicles. The screen will minimize the effects of the beam over the next two to three weeks when the companies said they expected the phenomenon to go away.
Shop workers said they didn’t know when the scaffolding will be taken down and they’re discussing it with the building’s manager.
The Walkie Talkie, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, is due to be completed next year. The higher floors are larger than those below, creating more space on less land. The curved glass slants down toward the street and creates the magnifying effect. An e-mail to the architect’s firm asking for comment wasn’t returned.
The Vdara Hotel and Spa at Citycenter in Las Vegas, also designed by Vinoly, produces a similar effect to the Walkie Talkie because of its curved shape, according to London-based newspaper the Guardian.
Tenants have signed up to occupy 52 percent of the Walkie Talkie and contracts for a further 4 percent of the space are awaiting legal confirmation, Land Securities said last month.
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