Thursday, September 05, 2013

London skyscraper melts cars

The latest example of architecture that ignores geometric optics brings us to London. The so-called "Walkie-Talkie" building includes mirrored panels arranged on a concave surface.

No doubt the architect thought it looked so cool. But it burns so hot.

It was sure to stand out; no other building in the city has such bold curves. But there's a good reason for that. The building claimed its first victim of note recently.

The contractors blow this problem off, blaming the sun for its current position in the sky (how dare be up there so unexpectedly?) and suggesting the problem will be short-lived (a few weeks).

The US is not immune to such architectural oversight. Las Vegas is home to VDARA Death Ray:

I wondered if no one took physics anymore. But then I remembered that I have not taught geometric optics in my Physics 1 course since before California Academic Content Standards were adopted. Our "Grade A" Physics Standards dropped geometric optics.

But geometric optics do not return with Next Generation Science Standards. And with the AP Physics B redesign, geometric optics is relegated to the second year of AP Physics (AP Physics 2).

So expect to see more of these "death ray" buildings pop up in America and around the world. The increased sunshine from climate change will only add to the trouble.


Kurt Zeppetello said...

As part of the new redesign for AP Chemistry, nuclear reactions were dropped. So in addition to more 'death-ray buildings' we can look forward to more nuclear accidents.

Bill Whitney said...

In one of the articles I read, it said that both the Las Vegas Vdara "death ray" building, and the London "melt your cars" building, were designed BY THE SAME ARCHITECT!

According to the article (, the architect for both buildings is Rafael Viñoly.

Fool me once, shame on me, but burn me twice, and that architect must be a heckuva salesman.