Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Fun in the sun



As anyone who lives or works in an 'Architect-Designed Building' (aren't they all?) knows, awards for innovative and unique design do not necessarily imply that the result is user-friendly. I should know - I spent the last half-hour at work today dealing with the consequences of a roof leak in a 'state-of-the-art' edifice.

But far from Britain's damp climate, another hazard is plaguing visitors to Nevada. As the Daily Mail explains in its inimitable style:

'Guests at a new hotel in Las Vegas have complained of receiving severe burns from a 'death ray' of sunlight caused by the unique design of the building.'

Due to the concave shape of the Vdara hotel, the strong Nevada sun reflects off its all-glass front and directly onto sections of the swimming pool area below.'

'The Las Vegas Review Journal quotes one hotel employee as saying the building's design causes the sunshine to be diverted 'like a magnifying glass that shines down' over a space of about 10 by 15 feet as the poolside.

And as the Earth rotates, the spot moves across the pool area. The 'death ray' can increase temperatures by around 20 degrees.'

In fact, it looks as if they could hardly have managed better if they had tried to barbecue their guests. I remember some astronomers at my alma mater trying the same thing with sausages and a parabolic reflector but the East Anglian climate didn't lend itself quite so well to the process.

Of course, the management are keen to point out this is not the result of monumental stupidity:

'Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM Resorts, which owns the Vdara hotel, said they was aware of the issue and designers were working with resort staff to come up with a solution.

In fact it is claimed that the designers foresaw the issue with the reflecting sun but thought they had solved it by installing a high-tech film on the south-facing panes of glass.

You have to admire their blind and trusting faith in the appliance of science; those magic words 'high-tech' probably justified an extra few thousands on the purchase price as well as giving them a nice warm glow - swiftly replaced by a sizzling sensation and second-degree burns.

Meanwhile, guests at the Vdara can rest assured that their future wellbeing is safe in the hands of the management. With a delightful touch of bathos, the Mail tells us that:

'While the designers work on fixing the problem, the hotel is looking at getting some larger, and crucially, thicker umbrellas to provide better shade for guests.'

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