Critics raved when Frank Gehry’s soaring residential tower at 8 Spruce Street opened in February, but they may want to rethink their praise for the glimmering steel facade. The ‘New York by Gehry’ building is so incredibly reflective that it has set fire on more than one occasion to surrounding buildings. The New York Fire Department reported that the concentrated reflections from the shiny stainless steel are so hot that they caused fires on the roofs of several nearby buildings over the course of the last few weeks, including the Verizon Tower (shown below), Pace University and New York Downtown Hospital. Fortunately, no one was injured during any of the incidents.
At a press conference yesterday, the NYC Fire Commissioner told reporters that a vinyl picnic table umbrella on a roof deck at Pace started to melt from the heat, and ultimately set fire to the deck. Students quickly noticed the wilting umbrella and called 911. A custodian used a fire extinguisher to small blaze, and the damage was contained to the deck area, which is now closed until further notice. The Verizon building suffered a larger fire, as there were no humans in the building to detect early signs.
At the press conference, local residents, Pace students, and Verizon employees all expressed concern over the building’s glare. “It’s really quite dangerous,” said Christina Black, a junior at Pace. “I used to study on that deck all the time, but the heat from the Gehry building, even in the winter, has made it really uncomfortable. I’m glad I wasn’t up there when it caught fire!”
This isn’t the first time that one of Gehry’s shiny steel buildings has had this problem. His Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles has a similar metal clad exterior, and it created reflections in a manner similar to a parabolic mirror. And predictably, similar problems were also reported by neighbors of his shimmering, titanium-clad McMansion in Los Angeles.The resulting heat made surrounding buildings so unbearably hot that the building had to be sandblasted to reduce glare. Now, some concerned citizens in NY are calling for the Gehry residence to get the same treatment. The Fire Chief said that the property managers were looking into a solution.