Building ‘Death Rays’ Burn Tourists, Melt Cars

From Las Vegas to London, buildings are accidentally magnifying the sun’s rays and causing serious harm to both people and property.

The most recent incident happened when a new London skyscraper appeared to be acting like a giant magnifying glass. According to the BBC, a man parked his Jaguar on Eastcheap, in London, across from a 37-story skyscraper being built. However, when he returned to his car two hours later, he found parts had melted — totaling up  to £946 (approximately $1,470) in damage.

“We are aware of concerns regarding the light reflecting from 20 Fenchurch Street and are looking into the matter,” developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf said in a joint statement. “As a precautionary measure, the City of London has agreed to suspend three parking bays in the area which may be affected while we investigate the situation further.”

deathrays_vdaraThis isn’t a case of some car owner hoping to cash in on rich developers. Indeed, the building, which was nicknamed the “Walkie Talkie” due to its shape, has now been nicknamed the “Walkie Scorchie” by residents because of multiple incidents. The Telegraph reported just last week that a bottle of soda melted onto a van’s dashboard thanks to the sun’s glare.

“It could be dangerous,” observed Martin Lindsay, owner of the Jaguar. “Imagine if the sun reflected on the wrong part of the body.”

While there have been plenty of buildings where the sun’s reflection has been considered annoying, these curved buildings are actually intensifying the sun’s energy. And a short search found that similar incidents have occurred elsewhere, and in some cases people were harmed.

Last year a battle began between the Nasher Sculpture Center and neighboring Museum Tower in Dallas, TX. The solar glare coming off the Museum Tower wasn’t just disturbing locals, it was threatening some of the delicate exhibits in the Nasher Sculpture Center. Likewise, back in 2010, visitors to Las Vegas’ then-new Vdara hotel discovered that the glass skyscraper magnified the sun’s rays into a shifting hot spot around the hotel’s pool area. It was reportedly strong enough to burn skin, singe hair, and melt plastic cups. The employees dubbed it “the death ray,” and solutions included adding more foliage to the pool deck, offering larger sun umbrellas, and adding a film the building’s windows to ease the problem.

Ironically, NPR reported that architect Rafael Vinoly designed both the Walkie Talkie and the Vdara in Las Vegas. Check out this ABC report on the Las Vegas incident when it first hit.