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London Walkie Talkie Owners Probe Tower’s Car-Melting Ray

London's Walkie Talkie Tower
The light beam cast by 20 Fenchurch Street depends on the sun’s elevation in the sky and the ray lasts about two hours a day at this time of the year, the companies said. Preliminary modeling indicates it will be present for about two to three weeks. Photographer: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images

The owners of the 37-story tower known as the Walkie Talkie in the City of London financial district are investigating a light beam cast by the building that’s so intense it melted parked cars.

Land Securities Group Plc and Canary Wharf Group Plc are examining the phenomenon and, along with the City of London, have blocked three parking spaces around the building at 20 Fenchurch Street that may be affected, the companies said in a statement after the market closed yesterday. The glare from the skyscraper, whose nickname derives from the tapering design that’s responsible for the beam, has melted parts of vehicles, City AM newspaper reported yesterday.

“We are taking the issue of light reflecting from 20 Fenchurch Street seriously and are looking into the matter as a priority,” Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group said in the statement.

The light beam, which depends on the sun’s elevation in the sky, lasts about two hours a day at this time of the year, the companies said. Preliminary modeling indicates it will be present for two to three weeks.

Being in the stream of light was “like walking through a wall of heat,” James Graham, a consultant at Hydrogen Group Plc, a recruiting firm located near the building, said in an interview. “I hope it hasn’t damaged my eyes.”

Diffused Light

The companies said they’re “consulting with local businesses and the City to address the issue in the short term while also evaluating longer-term solutions to ensure the issue cannot recur.”

The developers may have to apply a finish to the outside of the glass that diffuses light rather than reflecting it at full intensity, said Koen Steemers, head of Cambridge University’s department of architecture.

“It probably wouldn’t affect the transparency of the glass, but would slightly scatter the reflected solar radiation,” he said.

The Walkie Talkie, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, is due to be completed next year. Tenants have signed up to occupy 52 percent of the building and contracts for a further 4 percent of the space are awaiting legal confirmation, Land Securities said on July 17.

The building is popular with companies from the insurance industry because it’s close to the Lloyds of London building. Markel Corp., Ascot Underwriting Inc. and Kiln Group Ltd. have signed as tenants.

“The developer has moved very quickly to meet and discuss with anyone affected,” the City of London Corporation said in a statement on its website. “They have compensated a car owner, spoken to local businesses and explored temporary solutions, perhaps including partial screening.”

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