The BBC reports that a building with curved glass in London appears to have caused damage nearby as a result of the architecture focusing the sun's rays.

enter image description here

Seems plausible enough to me, but is this true?

An aside: this made me think of Charles Dryfus' threat to destroy the world in The Pink Panther Strikes Again (because the doomsday weapon was powered by the sun, IIRC):

enter image description here

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    Here's another article with some background knowledge about it, and a very damning picture of the hot spot - bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23944679 Sep 4, 2013 at 14:54
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    Wow: "One reading suggests hot spot was 91.3C today"
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 4, 2013 at 15:33
  • You can see that it's at least beginning to focus, in the photograph: the reflection of the sun is spread across the building.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 4, 2013 at 15:44
  • It doesn't take a big mirror to melt metal (example Youtube link). Maybe it's fortunate that the glass isn't more reflective, and building better focused.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 4, 2013 at 16:14
  • I'd be interested to see some calculations about how much the building is likely to concentrate the relative solar power of the sun’s radiation. That is, how much more in watts/sq m is normal british solar insolation increased by the “mirror” of the building design and how significant is this compared to solar radiative flux in other places.
    – matt_black
    Sep 4, 2013 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


Yes, the story has been confirmed by many reliable sources and the developers have taken responsibility.

This story from the BBC explains how:

It's like starting a fire with a parabolic mirror.

Parabolic mirror

The location of the focal point, F, depends on the curvature of the parabola. A shallow curve, like that of the building, places the focal point further away from the mirror.

The Guardian mentions that same architect's work has done this before, in Las Vegas:

it has happened before – in a project by the very same architect... they realised this special glass was in fact burning their guests as they lounged by the swimming pool beneath the soaring mirrored facades

CNN confirms the burning happened:

A skyscraper whose reflected rays have the power to melt cars...

And, the developers have taken responsibility:

Canary Wharf Construction and Land Securities have been very good and agreed to pay for the damage, and accept that there is an issue which they will resolve.

  • 3
    They ought to put some concentration-suitable PV panels on that parking spot. Should be able to get at least a few kilowatts out of it.
    – Compro01
    Sep 4, 2013 at 15:24
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    @Compro - the focal point moves with the sun, both through the day and through the seasons.
    – Henry
    Sep 4, 2013 at 18:04
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    I'm appalled that this isn't the first time this architect did it. Not realizing it was an issue the first time is understandable; but to do it again after it caused a big fuss the first time is IMO negligent. Sep 4, 2013 at 18:11
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    I am just glad it was called a parabolic mirror and not a magnifying glass as some sources have called it...
    – AthomSfere
    Sep 4, 2013 at 21:39
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    @DanNeely - Or it could be they made changes which they thought would prevent it, but didn't. Which is incompetent, but not necessarily negligent.
    – Bobson
    Aug 27, 2014 at 15:23

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