Walkie Talkie Death Ray

10Sep13

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’7″ W

From the surface of the sun, about 93 million miles away, to a dozen paving stones on Eastcheap, the hotspot was heating up nicely.

At lunchtime, bareheaded north Europeans poured from their air con offices to experience the blistering heat, squinted into the Biblical light, and then photographed the phenomena with their smartphones.

Helios was having a blast.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’6″ W

I started my psychogeographic route along the celestial pathway and photographed from the western side at 10.30am to the eastern end 4 hours later – each picture shown here in its longitudinal sequence.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’4″ W

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’4″ W

The Indian summer was already delaying the late autumn, spoiling Londoners for a further two weeks, when news came through of a strange event: An intensity of solar rays, reflected from the concave plate glass windows of one of the capital’s newest skyscrapers known as the Walkie-talkie, and focussing on the street below in the heart of the capital’s financial district.

A Jaguar owner returned to melted trim and wing mirror and a cyclist found his saddle smouldering. Tarmac turned to soft putty and thermometers produced from building atria registered a suffocating 50° and up to to 66° C  (144°F) – possibly the hottest place on the earth’s surface ever recorded.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’4″ W

En route to buy their sushi, a fraction of the 386 billion billion megaWatts of solar energy scorched the Londoners’ foreheads but somehow, the Walkie Talkie’s developer Land Securities admitted his modelling had failed to predict this event.

Its Uruguayan designer Rafael Viñoly’s also shirked any blame:

“Architects aren’t architects any more,” he complained. “One of the problems that happens in this town is the superabundance of consultants and sub consultants that dilute the responsibility of the designers until you don’t know where you are.”

He also underestimated how sunny this metropolis can be, although skulking in the shadows then crouching in the inferno was a corporate dressed in grey and armed with an industrial thermometer – clearly taking regular readings, and very loathe to divulging his motives: “I won’t say anything, I’m working.”

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’3″ W

So bright were the multiples of suns appearing in the glass (it was difficult and foolish to decide exactly how many though 4 seems a good number) that sunglasses proved ineffective, as if an eclipse was luring the over-curious into burning their retinas.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’3″ W

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’3″ W

As qualified as the suits may be, in quantitative easing perhaps, under the glare they reverted to adolescence. Eggs and Teflon frying pans appeared and while there was a certain degree of sizzling, few realised that the hottest zone was on the periphery of the brightest light. In a moment of overheated excitement, German TV crew cracked their own yolk on the boot of a Mercedes, too hot to touch, until stopped and questioned by police about criminal damage. If there were wider health & safety issues, no official in a hi-vis and hard hat was present to bother about anything as improbable as a spontaneous combustion.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’3″ W

Others took selfies of themselves under the brightness, like space tourists beneath an exploding supernova.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’2″ W

The solar rays took a little over 4 ½ hours to transit east along the 150 yards of Eastcheap with the most intensive being half way, near the corner of St Mary at Rood, at 90 degree right-angle to the skyscraper. Here was the best location to stop with your sandwich and feel toasted.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’2″ W

Despite being so widely-reported, this astronomical event seemed to have escaped the notice of some visitors to the capital. After all, a free space is a free space.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’1″ W

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’1″ W

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°5’0″ W

After heat damage to the frontages of a some businesses, a netting screen was placed as a celestial shield.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°4’60” W

In places, the light was cinematic. So HMI-bright, that one’s shadow reflected from the skyscraper was harder than direct sunlight. In other places there were no shadows.

UK - London -

51°30’38” N 0°4’59” W

As the sun’s angle to the building increased during the afternoon, its intensity fell away too and my hot walk along the sun’s spectacular line was fading.

Our star burned on – always unaware of its effects on strange humans below.

More of this photography can be viewed here.

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2 Responses to “Walkie Talkie Death Ray”

  1. Great post.. In Los Angeles a similar thing happened there when Gehry built the Disney Centre. They had to sand blast the metal paneling to take the sheen off.. tough to do that with glass on the WalkieTalkie… so will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  2. Indeed. They have many months to argue about what to do next. Let’s all gather below in a year and discover what they actually did.


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