Heathrow's Terminal Five was designed to be a soaring, light-filled tribute to the wonders of flight. Five years into its life, though, 60 percent of its lightbulbs are burned out—because there's been no safe or cost-effective way to change them. Now, officials say they've found a solution: Acrobats.
According to The Telegraph, Heathrow officials began examining, uh, unusual alternatives to the issue after cherry pickers usually and other specialized machines used by electricians proved to be too expensive or simply unsafe. Instead, they'll be retaining the services of a "Cirque du Soleil-style" company that specializes in super-high tightrope walking. More than 120 feet above the floor of the terminal, these acrobats will replace every single lightbulb in the 120,000-bulb array that blankets architect Richard Rogers' soaring ceiling.
It sounds like an extreme oversight: Didn't anyone on the design team think about the damn lightbulbs? In fact, this is far from the first instance of architectural grandeur trumping practical issues. A whole industry has been born out of new structures that are difficult to keep clean: From the ceiling of Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum, which is rumored to be impossible to clean, to a new breed of window washers who must use advanced mountaineering skills just to clean the façades of buildings like London's Gherkin.
It's one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, so what better time to take a closer look how we get where we're going—and how we could be doing it better. Check out more of Gizmodo's Air Travel Week posts here.