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Sep 02 2013

Big huge net curtains?

Hm. You would think people who design and build large buildings would know how to figure out how to do it without ending up with a lethal giant magnifying glass.

A new London skyscraper dubbed the “Walkie Talkie” has been blamed for reflecting light which melted parts of a car parked on a nearby street.

Martin Lindsay parked his Jaguar on Eastcheap, in the City of London, on Thursday afternoon.

When he returned about two hours later, he found parts of his car – including the wing mirror and badge – had melted.

Oops. So if people pause in a nearby spot to chat about the prospects for Wolverhampton Wanderers (as people do), they might burst into flames?

Unsettling.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    eigenperson

    This also happened (though less severely) with the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas.

  2. 2
    clamboy

    Though this article describing this dispute in Dallas is over a year old, I think it is ongoing:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/02/arts/design/renzo-pianos-nasher-museum-in-dallas-has-sunburn-problem.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  3. 3
    ekwhite

    Yikes!! I hope they can correct this problem. In the meantime, don’t park anywhere near that building.

  4. 4
    scytale

    Athur C. Clarke had a story about a SA football match ,where the home crowd had programs with shiny backs, which were used to focus the sun on the referee after they did not agree with his rulings, the new ref was more docile.

  5. 5
    Tom Foss

    Well, you might be able to park near the building, as long as you’re far enough inside the focal length.

  6. 6
    Pieter B, FCD

    This article has a photo of the building in question which makes it very clear why there’s a problem. This sort of thing really should be covered in the first semester of architecture school. And the second, and…

  7. 7
    Sili

    At least it was a Jaguar.

  8. 8
    Jafafa Hots

    Build all skyscrapers this way with one central focal point.

    Then put a big black metal water tank there. Free hot tea for everyone!

  9. 9
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Having a degree in renewable energy engineering, I can see some definite uses for this.

  10. 10
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Yeah, but how many City brokers are likely to remember their optics classes from the Physics they probably skipped? :)

    The dopey part is, if they’d thought it through, and purchased a nice matt-black-painted water tank at the focal point, and hooked it up to a wee generator…

  11. 11
    quixote

    Well, if people stopped at the focal point they might think of moving elsewhere :D. Unless they were fundies of course, in which case it would be a message from God and a meaningful martyrdom.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    H/t to Pieter, by the way – it was a Facebook status of his that alerted me to this.

  13. 13
    psanity

    @Pieter:

    This article has a photo of the building in question which makes it very clear why there’s a problem

    Holey moley, it’s a freaking giant Fresnel lens! Wouldn’t it be a good idea, if you’re going to design buildings faced in glass, to know how reflective surfaces work??!

  14. 14
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Oops. So if people pause in a nearby spot to chat about the prospects for Wolverhampton Wanderers (as people do),……

    ….as people tend to do if they’re in Wolverhampton; it’s a well known fact that people in London don’t pause to speak to anyone…….ever ;-)

    And this would never have happened in the good old days when cars had metal bumpers and badges and buildings had their mirrors in the bathrooms where they belong (OK Grandad, time for your cocoa).

  15. 15
    Reginald Selkirk

    That story you heard about Archimedes setting fire to invading ships with a giant mirror is based on an accident, he was really just trying to invent the skyscraper.

  16. 16
    Maureen Brian

    An internet for you, Reginald Selkirk!

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes!

  18. 18
    A. Noyd

    Wait, they have sun in London?

  19. 19
    thephilosophicalprimate

    A. Noyd: Your comment suggests why this hasn’t been a problem but for a few people here and there even though the building has been shaped like that for years…

  20. 20
    Al Dente

    So what are the prospects of the Wolverhampton Wanderers? Are they going to make it back into the Championship?

  21. 21
    Mary Ellen

    @Pieter But architects, I’m told, don’t learn how to build buildings at architecture school; they learn artsy design. A friend of mine who went to Rhode Island School of Design –the Harvard of Amrican art and architecture schools–to become an architect found that she didn’t learn architecture there. They expect that after you’ve become artsy with them, you will leave and do an apprenticeship in an architect’s office, where you will finally learn how to build buildings.

    Then again, maybe it’s different in the UK. I don’t know any architects here…

  22. 22
    latsot

    You would think people who design and build large buildings would know how to figure out how to do it…

    People who design and build large buildings sometimes also seem strangely ignorant of how people use buildings.

    For instance, I used to work in a building that was designed to be environmentally friendly. There were some good ideas such as using rainwater for flushing toilets and fancy heating and cooling systems. However, there were also some bad things, which reveal a lot about human nature. Here are 3:

    1. The windows opened and closed automatically to maintain the optimal temperature. This should be ringing alarm bells already. The algorithm was based on full occupancy, but at first only our floor and one other was occupied. This caused the windows upstairs to open more or less constantly. So the people in those offices simply unplugged the cable that drove the motors. This in turn caused the windows on *our* floor to be open all the time. Our windows were different and we couldn’t use the same trick.

    2. There was a huge set of fins on the front of the building which moved to reflect light and heat away (the front of the building was all glass). However, it turned out that these simply did not work. At all. And never got fixed during the couple of years I was in the building. Because of the fins, there were no blinds or curtains and this made it impossible to work there on sunny days. After a while, pieces of paper appeared on the glass, shaped to follow the motion of the sun throughout the day.

    3. I was lucky, I had an office with a door and an opening window and a blind. Sensibly enough, the lights were on motion sensors. I was happy that I couldn’t leave the lights on by mistake. However, there was no way to turn the lights *off*, so they were on all the time I was in the room, whether they needed to be or not. This was a stupid waste of power and annoying for me.

    The architects seemed so desperate to win an environmental design prize (they did) that they lost sight of the fact that there were actual people in the building, trying to work.

  23. 23
    Nentuaby

    3. I was lucky, I had an office with a door and an opening window and a blind. Sensibly enough, the lights were on motion sensors. I was happy that I couldn’t leave the lights on by mistake. However, there was no way to turn the lights *off*, so they were on all the time I was in the room, whether they needed to be or not. This was a stupid waste of power and annoying for me.

    Oh, I HATE that. The boss offices at my last job had lights set up like that. Now, all the boss-offices also had glass walls looking out onto the cube farm. Sure enough, walking in front of those offices would turn their lights on, and there was a night patroller who made his rounds in front of them. So those suuuper-smart auto lights didn’t EVER turn off. Wheeeeeeeee.

  24. 24
    LykeX

    There was a huge set of fins on the front of the building which moved to reflect light and heat away (the front of the building was all glass). However, it turned out that these simply did not work… Because of the fins, there were no blinds or curtains and this made it impossible to work there on sunny days

    I think often designers (of all stripes) end up getting so excited about their brilliant ideas that they forget to ask the question: “What if it breaks? What do you do then?”

  25. 25
    latsot

    @Nentuaby

    It was even worse than that. The meeting rooms had lights like that too. And yet they also had roof-mounted projectors. So the only way we could do presentations was to sit really really still.

    Until I put some duct tape over the motion sensor, that is.

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