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An almost finished building on Cheapside in London has been nicknamed the "Walkie Talkie" because of its curved design which means the upper of the 39 floors are larger than the middle. Another nearby building has already been dubbed the "Cheesegrater"  One of the reasons for the proliferation of unusually shaped high buildings in central London like the "Gherkin" (30 St Mary Axe) and The Shard is that sight lines to St Paul's Cathedral from other parts of the city are protected by building regulations.

The curved sides of the "Walkie Talkie" are acting like a parabolic mirror and are focusing the sunlight onto the opposite side of the road (yes London does get sun!).  Unfortunately (or part of the Mayor's plan to discourage car use in central London), there is also a metered parking bay there. One Jaguar owner found out the problem the hard way:

Mr Lindsay, director of tiling company Moderna Contracts Ltd, said: "I was walking down the road and saw a photographer taking photos and asked, 'what's happening?'

"The photographer asked me 'have you seen that car? The owner won't be happy.'

"I said: 'I am the owner. Crikey, that's awful.'"

The wing mirror, panels and Jaguar badge had all melted, Mr Lindsay said.

Part of the car's paneling and its badge had softened and distorted in the heat. The company building the skyscraper have paid out about $1500 in repairs. The focused heat is also causing the paint on the buildings opposite to bubble and has set fire to the door mat of a barbers' shop.

It strikes me that this accident opens up new possibilities for renewable energy - probably as I also found out that the building contractors behind the Shard have a new contract in Saudi Arabia to build a skyscraper. Why not deliberately design the building to act as a proper parabolic mirror but clear the area in front so a moveable "solar boiler" can be located at the focus point throughout the day? This would reverse the usual arrangements for such concentrated solar heat power stations where the mirrors are moved to focus on a fixed solar boiler at the top of a tower. Obviously you would design the building so the focus was well away from any passing camel or Jaguar.

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