CGI artist predicted "Walkie Scorchie"
effect a year ago


CGI artist predicted "Walkie Scorchie" effect a year ago - photograph by Fizz-200

News: the "death-ray" effect created by sunlight reflected off the glazed facade of Rafael Viñoly's Walkie Talkie skyscraper in London were predicted over a year ago by a professional CGI artist, it emerged today as developers rush to install protective screens.

The artist, who goes by the forum username Bobdobbs, anticipated that the curvaceous facade of the 37-storey tower at 20 Fenchurch Street could at certain times of the year create light reflections up to 600% brighter that its surroundings buildings, using a simple 3D mock-up of the volume.

"A clear hot late September/October day may throw up some very interesting lighting effects," he wrote on a thread at website SkyscraperCity. "I'm fairly confident that the difference, from measurement, is about 600% brighter! I know where I wouldn't want to stand!"

CGI artist predicted "Walkie Scorchie" effect a year ago
3D mock-up of the reflection created by Bobdobbs

Comparing the project to nearby skyscraper The Shard, which is reported to have dazzled train drivers, Bobdobbs added: "The Shard's death ray will be nothing compared to this."

The news emerges as developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf take emergency action to prevent more damage being caused by intense glare from the nicknamed "Walkie Scorchie", which is said to have melted vehicles, cracked pavement tiles and even started a small fire.

"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," said a spokesperson. "This solution should minimise the impact on the local area over the next two to three 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."

CGI artist predicted "Walkie Scorchie" effect a year ago

Philip Oldfield, a tall buildings expert from the University of Nottingham, has suggested that amendments to Rafael Viñoly's initial concept could be to blame. "It seems the original design included small horizontal balconies on the south facade rather than the continuous glass facade as built now," he told The Independent. "This would have surely mitigated any significant glare like we are seeing at the moment."

Other preventative measures that could be taken include adding small fins to the exterior or applying a special coating that reduces the impact of the reflections.

This isn't the first time that a building by the Uruguayan architect has prompted complaints about glare. In 2010, guests at the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas complained of scorched hair and melted drinks glasses. The hotel has since used anti-reflective film, oversized plants and rows of umbrellas to fix the problem.

The unfinished skyscraper is not set to open until next year and will feature an elevated garden and observation deck that will be open to the public.

See more architecture by Rafael Viñoly »
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Photograph of the Walkie Talkie is courtesy of Shutterstock.

  • Xela C

    Focused reflections can be a Gehry big problem for some…

  • Pedro Castro

    If someone wants to “play” with parabolic surfaces they should at least learn their properties… especially reflection!

  • RRR

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to have seen that one coming. Solution: Use the glass surface as a massive billboard/artwork with transparent sticker foil. It could create some extra revenue too, which could be donated to a charity of course.

    • Josh

      As much as I’m sure the people of London would love a gigantic advertisement staring down at them every day, the building is horrific enough without a 37 story Kevin Bacon telling us we should switch mobile networks. Is there any angle at which this building looks good?

  • Daniel Brown

    Oh, and it’s ugly.

    • xxx

      That was most certainly predicted a year ago.

  • Tristram

    Keep as is, and have an Eco friendly breakfast bar for people to fry eggs and bacon etc.

  • JerryD-W

    How about a twelve storey high pair of Ray Bans?

  • FG

    Leave some popcorn down there for the public!

  • earthling-a-ling

    Scorch me once, shame on you; scorch me twice, shame on me. Why employ this architect unsupervised again after the fiasco?

  • Bhav 9732

    Architectural warfare.

  • Manfred LaFleur

    I love this story. Please install some solar panels. Then we’re all happy.

  • effwerd

    Gotta love value engineering.

  • ii

    hmm… what’s going to happen in Milano than?

  • tim

    Would it make sense to put solar panels on that scorched area?

  • Noah

    How did they not learn from the Vdara project? How many times does this guy need to get sued?

  • Daniel Brown

    According to the BBC:

    “Proper checks were carried out during the design and planning process, Mr Bonfield told BBC London 94.9.

    “At no stage did the 3D modelling suggest there was going to be an issue with light reflecting and focusing at ground level,” he added.”

  • Gary Grant

    Could deliberately concentrate light from many buildings to heat water.

  • Edward Smith

    How can a collector be effectively deployed when the ground-level focal zone is right where public vandalism and the public right of way exists?

    Maybe if it wasn’t a public road and sidewalk where anybody can walk up and get fried or mess with delicate equipment.

    The best thing they can do is give the architectural designer mandatory community service that entails ten years of monthly lectures to prospective architectural students on WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER BUILD A CONCAVE REFLECTIVE BUILDING!!! This was such a bone-head idea that I want to strangle all those “form is more important than function” hipster architects.