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The Shed is the only reason to go to Hudson Yards, New York’s most hated new development

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Architecture critics have been almost unanimous in their hatred of New York ’s new Hudson Yards development, a generic pop-up landscape of soulless glass towers and high-end retail built over the wasteland of midtown Manhattan’s west-side rail yard. Longtime New Yorkers, and transplants with taste, are inclined to agree: It’s as ugly as Dubai, it reeks of greed and mammon, and it only exacerbates the worst tendencies of a city that seems hellbent on erasing anything distinctive or humane in its built environment.

But now comes the Shed, the one bit of leavening in this whole miserable, embarrassing tale of urban gigantism and one-percenter excess. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group, the Shed is meant to be the cultural giveback that compensates for the vulgar mess of the larger Yards project. Looking a bit like a bubble-clad airplane hangar, it sits on the southern edge of the Yards with two distinct elements defining its architecture: a boxlike form projecting out of the bottom of a high-rise residential tower, and a canopy with translucent plastic side panels, mounted on wheels and rails, that opens onto a public plaza. When the extension canopy is open, it incorporates a huge volume of temporary space for performances or events.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro also designed New York’s enormously successful elevated park known as the High Line, a converted railway that terminates at the base of the Shed on 30th Street. More than decade ago, they teamed up with Rockwell Group and responded to a request for proposals for over 20,000 square feet of land at Hudson Yard, set aside by the city for a cultural use. Their idea: a large, flexible multipurpose arts and cultural venue, which opens to the public Friday.

The design, like the name, plays off the fashionable idea that culture should be both grand and provisional, spectacular and temporary, awe-inspiring and evanescent, like a giant dance party or an epic flash mob. People crave live entertainment that can compete with the power and enchantment of electronic media, the addictive engagement of video games, and the online hypnosis of social media. So cultural events must have a big impact, ideally made by people with big names, creating things that fill big spaces, appealing to crowds that can sense their own bigness.

But it also must be somehow transient, or fleeting — art that exists outside the idea of a lasting canon of art, work that reflects the cruel ideology of public space in cities like New York, where everything is always being remade, passing away, plowed under and built over. Hence, the Shed, which sounds like something found in a backyard but is built at industrial scale, with industrial elements, including six-foot-wide steel wheels that carry the 120-foot-tall canopy along the rails, like the giant cranes that load cargo ships in a modern seaport. Clad in pillows of synthetic material that mimic the thermal properties of glass (with a fraction of the weight), the Shed, when open, encloses some 2 million cubic feet of interior space and can accommodate up to 3,000 people when the inner galleries are configured for expanded seating.

So it is a building with a giant, extendible cover. When the canopy is closed, it is nestled over the permanent structure, which contains an array of galleries, theaters and event spaces. When the canopy is extended, it can be used for larger performances, blacked out with shades for theater or concerts, or left open on the sides to connect with the plaza outside. Events scheduled for the Shed’s first few months give a sense of the many ways it can be used: a multi-evening survey of African American music created by artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen; an exhibition by Gerhard Richter paired with immersive musical performances of works by composers Steve Reich and Arvo Part; and an adaptation of Euripides’s “Helen” by Anne Carson, starring soprano Renée Fleming and actor Ben Whishaw. The rest of the season is equally ambitious, with a theater piece by Bjork and a martial-arts musical; almost all of it is newly commissioned work.

Architecturally, the Shed can’t redeem the Hudson Yards debacle. It sits next to a giant folly known as the Vessel, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, which is fast becoming the neighborhood’s Instagram identity icon: An inverted ziggurat of open stairs and walkways, it is clad in gaudy polished copper, and it connects the district to the New York area of Trump Tower and other vulgarities. The Shed is perched too closely but to the side of the Vessel (now derisively called the Golden Shawarma), and it sits slightly aloof to the shopping plaza with all the usual dreary markers of nouveau riche aspiration (Coach, Dior, Cartier, Fendi and all the other trash). The underside of the High Line can be seen from the Shed’s street-level lobby, symbolically tethering the new cultural space to the New York neighborhoods of Chelsea and the Village, where a few bewildered souls may still cherish memories of these once bohemian areas before they were overrun by real estate developers.

The Shed’s impact on the larger cultural architecture of New York is uncertain. The city already has spaces, such as the Park Avenue Armory, that host multidisciplinary, large-format performance and exhibition events. Led by artistic director Alex Poots, the Shed will produce new work, which will probably be sui generis, reflecting the architectural possibilities of the building for which it was made, and thus not traveling beyond the space, or outside, of the particular cultural milieu that flocks to it. The Shed is meant to be a tool, infinitely adaptable, but it will also forge its own aesthetic. One hopes it will retain some kind of democratic sensibility, that it will intersect with the hard-working artistic grass-roots of the city without succumbing to the self-congratulatory, high-end cosmopolitan chic that defines much of what gets made in New York these days (remember Bjork’s crazy, pretentious one-woman show at the Museum of Modern Art?).

If its relation to the Yards and the New York cultural scene remains ambivalent or ambiguous, the Shed’s architectural message is a bit clearer. It makes manifest something that was latent in the High Line — the evolving meaning of our old, industrial infrastructure. The High Line turned a rusting elevated rail line into the city’s most fashionable park, and in the process, it stimulated rapid economic development of its surrounding neighborhoods. At the time, repurposing industrial relics seemed a natural extension of an architectural ideal that sought connection across class lines, that paid homage to the kinds of people who once worked in the industrial economy.

But with the Shed, the industrial aesthetic is now fully divorced from any vestigial memories of the now decimated blue-collar America. It is industrial without any trace of the old grit. There’s a certain honesty in that — nostalgia for the working class easily becomes a kind of condescension — and the building’s primary charm (it moves!) is essential to its function. So perhaps we can at last acknowledge that the new architecture of cultural institutions, with its emphasis on breaking down barriers and Shed-like elements of impermanence and adaptability, is just a different language than the old architecture of elevated entrances and grand facades. It still requires a ticket to get in, you feel special when you’re there, and it’s probably sold out through January.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/the-shed-is-the-only-reason-to-go-to-hudson-yards-new-yorks-most-hated-new-development/2019/04/02/604766a2-5235-11e9-a3f7-78b7525a8d5f_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e98c19f988bb

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GM quiet about Cruise driverless taxi fleet as deadline looms

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As the self-imposed deadline for the self-driving taxi service from General Motors Co.’s autonomous vehicle development unit looms this year, the San Francisco-based GM Cruise LLC has gone quiet.

Hype for Cruise’s potential built up in late 2017 and into 2018 as the former start-up laid the groundwork for a commercial launch of its autonomous technology. Increasingly, however, company leaders have said a launch of Cruise’s driverless taxi service would be “gated by safety,” a hedge that has been repeated since October when GM’s self-driving unit partnered with Honda Motor Co.

Meantime, the industry at large has started pulling back on some of its autonomous-vehicle optimism. A fatal accident involving one of Uber’s self-driving test vehicles spurred an industry-wide reassessment of how to best validate the complex technology required to make a car navigate public roads without the help of a driver. As investors and industry observers wait to see Cruise’s robo-taxi service in action, experts say the 2019 deadline is hardly a deal-breaker for the driverless-vehicle unit’s future.

“The real question is not whether Cruise is on track for 2019 or not — it’s whether GM has the stomach to gut this thing out to completion and do everything it’s really going to take to get there,” said Mike Ramsey, an automotive analyst for research firm Gartner Inc. “Does GM have the stomach to spend money — that they don’t have a ton of — and sacrifice areas that make money now to stick this out?”

GM is trying to prove as much. The company is executing a sweeping restructuring that includes stopping production at five North American plants and cutting 15 percent of its salaried workforce. The goal is to cut costs and redirect precious capital toward expensive autonomy, electrification and mobility efforts.

The rollout of the technology has always been guided by safety, a Cruise spokesman said, reiterating what GM and Cruise executives have said in recent months. Leaders also say the quiet period for Cruise is a result of the Silicon Valley workforce’s focus on getting the technology right.

GM is planning to spend roughly $1 billion on Cruise in 2019 after spending about $700 million last year. That includes hiring another 1,000 people over the next nine months. Cruise has also garnered some $5 billion in outside investments from Japan’s SoftBank Investment Advisers and Honda.

And executives say a change in leadership ushers in a new phase for the self-driving car unit. Former GM President Dan Ammann took over as CEO of Cruise effective Jan. 1. He replaced co-founder Kyle Vogt who moved into the role of chief technology officer. Ammann and Vogt say the shuffle allows both executives to focus on their strengths as Cruise moves toward deployment.

But Cruise’s original vision of a driverless taxi fleet of cars without steering wheels or pedals is still stuck in neutral more than a year after the company asked NHTSA permission to put the cars on public roads. It took NHTSA about 14 months to respond to the petition, advancing it to the public review stage last month.

GM’s long wait for a response is evidence that gaining the necessary federal approval is no small step, nor is it guaranteed. Federal safety regulation language revolves around human drivers and vehicles engineered to be piloted by a human driver — as opposed to artificial intelligence.

GM CEO Mary Barra has said the San Francisco team could proceed without federal approval of the steering wheel-free models by launching the service with the safety driver-piloted test vehicles already on public roads. But even if GM Cruise doesn’t start ferrying customers in one of its lidar-equipped Chevrolet Bolt EVs by the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, experts seem to think the company will be forgiven.

“If GM were to potentially recast its projected time horizon for the launch and rollout of its GM Cruise unit’s service at a later time (i.e. significantly beyond 2020),” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a recent note, “we believe the stock market would be largely understanding.”

Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research, which recently ranked Cruise as one of the leaders in the autonomous vehicle race, said the company’s self-imposed 2019 deadline is largely arbitrary.

“If we don’t see a driverless taxi service from Cruise by the end of this year, it will not be the end of the world,” Abuelsamid said. “In the long term it’s better to delay and do this the right way — and Uber made the case last year for what happens when you rush this technology.”

Uber suspended all testing of self-driving cars last March after one of its autonomous test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. The ride-hailing giant was rushing its autonomous vehicle development to keep up with leaders like GM’s Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo LLC.

What followed was an industry-wide reckoning with autonomous-vehicle testing practices. Many companies took their driverless test vehicles off the roads while they revamped testing practices. Uber wouldn’t resume autonomous vehicle testing for another nine months. Waymo walked back promises to take human safety drivers out of its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans. And GM appeared to quietly abandon plans to begin testing autonomous vehicles on the busy streets of New York City.

“This is normal,” Ramsey said. “None of what changed in the last year constitutes failure. This is just what happens when something that is really hard, but has a lot of promise, comes around. This is how new technologies get commercialized.”

Source: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/general-motors/2019/04/17/gm-quiet-about-cruise-driverless-taxi-fleet-as-deadline-looms/3398967002/

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Yemeni-Americans in New York City are boycotting the New York Post after a damning Ilhan Omar cover story

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Yemeni-American shop owners across New York City are denouncing the New York Post in light of a controversial cover image put forth by the publication featuring the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a stand alone quote from Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.

“Here’s your something. 2,977 people dead by terrorism,” read last Thursday’s headline, appearing to suggest Omar, a Somali American congresswoman from Minnesota, was dismissive of the attack on the Twin Towers.

The cover was in reference to a speech Omar delivered last month at an event for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and frankly I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” Omar said. “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” (CAIR was founded in 1994, and an Omar spokesperson later told the Washington Post that the freshman lawmaker misspoke and meant to refer to the fact that the organization had doubled in size after 9/11).

Omar has faced backlash in recent weeks from the media, commentators, and politicians alike. Last Friday, President Donald Trump shared a video on Twitter blasting Omar for the speech. In the days since Trump’s tweet, Omar said she has experienced an increase in death threats. As of Monday, the video remains on his Twitter page.

New York City’s Yemeni-American community says they are worried that the New York Post’s front page will encourage anti-Muslim violence and rhetoric. As of Saturday morning, ten well-known Yemeni store owners had agreed to stop selling the tabloid, while Yemeni taxi drivers passed out fliers about the boycott to other Yemeni-owned establishments across the city, according to The New York Times.

In an open letter, the Yemeni American Merchants Association said the New York Post’s front page “provoked hatred against Rep. Omar,” and lambasted its decision to publish as “cheap and sensational tabloids that undermine national unity and entice violence and hate for the sole purpose of circulation and sales.”

“This rhetoric threatens the safety and wellbeing of Rep. Omar, Muslim leaders, and the larger Muslim American community at a time when Islamophobia is at an all-time high,” the letter added.

INSIDER reached out to the News Corporation, the New York Post’s parent company, for comment. On Sunday, the Yemeni American Merchants Association announced its formal boycott at a news conference outside of the News Corporation’s building in Manhattan. People in attendance displayed signs that read “boycott hate” and “New York Post take your paper back.”

The association has issued a set of demands, including a public apology to Omar by the Post, and a request that the publication’s editor-in-chief, Stephen Lynch, step down from his position.

Yemeni-American store owners have previously turned toward political activism: after the president issued a ban on travelers in 2017 from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, thousands of Yemeni-Americans closed shop and gathered together to rally against the policy.

“It’s not the first time that the New York Post basically spreads hate and fear in their newspapers,” Ayyad Algabyali, the association’s director of advocacy, told the Guardian, adding that there is “no end date” to the boycott and “this might be for good.”

Source: https://www.thisisinsider.com/yemeni-americans-are-boycotting-the-new-york-post-after-it-slammed-ilhan-omar-2019-4

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Fire Mauls Beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

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Notre-Dame cathedral, the symbol of the beauty and history of Paris, was scarred by an extensive fire on Monday evening that caused its delicate spire to collapse, bruised the Parisian skies with smoke and further disheartened a city already back on its heels after weeks of violent protests.

The spectacle of flames leaping from the cathedral’s wooden roof — its spire glowing red then turning into a virtual cinder — stunned thousands of onlookers who gathered along the banks of the Seine and packed into the plaza of the nearby Hôtel de Ville, gasping and covering their mouths in horror and wiping away tears.

“It is like losing a member of one’s own family,” said Pierre Guillaume Bonnet, a 45-year-old marketing director. “For me there are so many memories tied up in it.”

Around 500 firefighters battled the blaze for nearly five hours. By 11 p.m. Paris time, the structure had been “saved and preserved as a whole,” the fire chief, Jean-Claude Gallet, said. The two magnificent towers soaring above the skyline had been spared, he said, but two-thirds of the roof was destroyed.

“The worst has been avoided even though the battle is not completely won,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a brief and solemn speech at Notre-Dame on Monday night, vowing that the cathedral would be rebuilt.
“This is the place where we have lived all of our great moments, the epicenter of our lives,” he said. “It is the cathedral of all the French.”

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, officials said. But it appeared to have begun in the interior network of wooden beams, many dating back to the Middle Ages and nicknamed “the forest,” said the cathedral’s rector, Msgr. Patrick Chauvet.

No one was killed, officials said, but a firefighter was seriously injured.

The fire broke out about 6:30 p.m., upending Mr. Macron’s plans to deliver an important policy speech about trying to heal the country from months of “Yellow Vest” demonstrations that had already defaced major landmarks in the capital and disfigured some of its wealthiest streets.
The tragedy seemed to underscore the challenges heaped before his administration, which has struggled to reconcile the formidable weight of France’s ideals and storied past with the necessity for change to meet the demands of the 21st century.

A jewel of medieval Gothic architecture built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre-Dame is a landmark not only for Paris, where it squats firmly yet gracefully at its very center, but for all the world. The cathedral is visited by about 30,000 people a day and around 13 million people a year.

For centuries France’s kings and queens were married there. Napoleon was crowned emperor in Notre-Dame in 1804, and the joyous thanksgiving ceremony after the Liberation of Paris in 1944 took place there, led by Charles de Gaulle.
World leaders congregated at the cathedral in a memorial service for Mr. de Gaulle in 1970, and then again for President François Mitterrand in 1996.

On Monday evening, as the last rush of tourists were trying to get in for the day, the doors of Notre-Dame were abruptly shut without explanation, witnesses said. Within moments, tiny bits of white smoke started rising from the spire — which, at 295 feet, was the highest part of the cathedral.

Billowing out, the smoke started turning gray, then black, making it clear that a fire was growing inside the cathedral, which is currently covered in scaffolding. Soon, orange flames began punching out of the spire, quickly increasing in intensity.
The French police rushed in and started blowing whistles, telling everyone to move back, witnesses said. By then, the flames were towering, spilling out of multiple parts of the cathedral.

Tourists and residents alike came to a standstill, pulling out their phones to call their loved ones. Older Parisians began to cry, lamenting how their national treasure was quickly being lost.

Thousands stood on the banks of the Seine river and watched in shock as the fire tore through the cathedral’s wooden roof and brought down the spire. Video filmed by onlookers and shared on social media showed smoke and flames billowing from the top of the cathedral.

Jean-Louis Martin, 56, a native of Dijon in eastern France who works at the university in Geneva, gasped as the flames leapt up. “It hurts me,” he said. “There are no words. It’s just horrible.”

The crowd gasped and cried in horror when the spire fell. “Paris is beheaded,” said Pierre-Eric Trimovillas, 32.

Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York City fire chief, said that fire hose streams could not reach the top of such a cathedral, and that reaching the top on foot was often an arduous climb over winding steps.
“These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn,” he said. “If they weren’t houses of worship, they’d be condemned.”

The city’s prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation.

Monsignor Chauvet said firefighters were able to save some of the cathedral’s artworks but did not say how much was damaged inside the building. A linen fabric associated with Saint Louis, the Holy Crown of thorns and the cathedral’s treasury were saved.

Mr. Gallet, the fire chief, said firefighters were still rescuing artworks in the building, hours after the fire had started. The main risk, he said, was the smoke within the cathedral, and the fall of materials, including melting lead.

The cathedral had been undergoing extensive renovation work. Last week, 16 copper statues representing the Twelve Apostles and four evangelists were lifted with a crane so that the spire could be renovated.

The cathedral had been in dire need of a thorough and expensive restoration, André Finot, the cathedral spokesman, told The New York Times in 2017.

Broken gargoyles and fallen balustrades had been replaced by plastic pipes and wooden planks. Flying buttresses had been darkened by pollution and eroded by rainwater. Pinnacles had been propped up by beams and held together with straps. In some places, limestone crumbled at a finger’s touch.

Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York, said construction work and renovations had long been a dangerous combination.

“There’s a history of churches and synagogues and other houses of worship falling victim to construction fires,” he said, adding that one of the reasons for the peril was the proximity of open flames on torches, sparks from welders and other hazards on scaffolding to other flammable materials.

In recent years, the Friends of Notre-Dame, a foundation based in the United States, estimated that the structure needed nearly $40 million for urgent repairs. The French state, which owns the cathedral, already devotes up to 2 million euros a year in upkeep, or about $2.4 million.
The fire came during Holy Week, six days before Easter Sunday. For Roman Catholics, the cathedral has been a spiritual pilgrimage site for generations. France has a deep Catholic history, and nearly two-thirds of its population is Catholic, even though fewer and fewer attend Mass.

“It’s apocalyptic,” said Eleanor Batreau, 45, who organizes pilgrimages to Lourdes and sometimes works at Notre-Dame. “It reminds me of Dresden burning. I’m a Catholic, and Notre-Dame is a symbol of Mary.”

The risk of the fire is not just to the cathedral itself, but also to the gargoyles that cover its walls and to the stained glass, particularly its “rose” windows.

The largest of its bells, which dates to 1681, managed to survive the French Revolution and has been rung at some of the most important events in French history, including both World Wars.

Bernard Fonquernie, the architect in charge of the cathedral’s restoration in the 1980s and 1990s, said that he believed much of the building, its furnishings and its stained glass could be saved. “The stone vaulting acted like a firewall and it kept the worst heat away,” he said.

Yet the fire is likely to be just the latest, if most dramatic, insult to a landmark that has endured decades of neglect and damage, some at the hands of French revolutionaries, through its more than 850-year history.

Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, “Notre-Dame of Paris,” noted even then that “one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/world/europe/notre-dame-fire.html

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