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If you can’t stand the heat, get away from the ‘Solar Death Ray’

9/22/2013 | Real Estate Blog

Philadelphia developers, there is a lesson for you in the story of a new building in London. The 37-story building at 20 Fenchurch Street in the city’s financial district was originally dubbed the “Walkie Talkie,” in honor of its unusual shape. As the seasons changed, and the sun lowered on the horizon, that unusual shape has earned the building a new nickname: the fryscraper.

The new moniker stems in part from one man’s experience. He claims that he parked his car across the street from the building one sunny day. When he returned an hour later, his car had melted: The wing mirror, panels and Jaguar badge were misshapen, a result of the intense heat from the sun’s rays bouncing off the building.

The Times reports, too, that the building’s “solar death ray” has melted bicycle seats and fried eggs on the sidewalk. This is not your typical glass-curtain, high-rise commercial construction project.

The reference to the walkie-talkie comes from the building’s basic outline: Narrow at the bottom, the walls curve out to make the top floors wider. It is that curve, the concavity of the exterior cloaked in glass, that is the source of the heat.

Apparently, the developer was aware of the risk. The phenomenon occurs when the sun reaches a certain point on the horizon. The sun is in that narrow band for two hours a day over a two-week period at the end of summer; for two hours of every day the angle is just right for the sun to reflect off the building, exerting an intense heat on anything in its path.

We’ll finish this up in our next post.


The Guardian, “London skyscraper melted my car, says motorist,” Sep. 2, 2013

Metro News, “Was the ‘fryscraper’ glare of Walkie Talkie a result of cost-cutting?” Sep. 6, 2013