Weekend

Required Reading

This week, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, reality check at Hudson Yards, roots of white nationalism, a rare 15th-century Irish translation of an 11th-century Persian medical encyclopedia, and more.

This 40-metre-tall “Rain Vortex” is reputedly the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. It is the centrepiece of Singapore’s new Jewel Changi Airport, which is designed by Moshe Safdie’s architecture firm. The structure is slated to open April 17. More images at Dezeen (via Dezeen)

New York politics and real estate are notoriously akin to “Rashomon.” Any verdict on an undertaking as costly and complex as Hudson Yards depends on one’s perspective.

For its advocates, the $25 billion development is a shining new city ex nihilo, a wellspring of future tax revenues and evidence of a miraculous, post-9/11 civic volte-face. They note how the project sailed through the public and environmental review processes, winning neighborhood approval partly because at the time it seemed better than an earlier proposal to erect a sports stadium on the site, partly because it was conceived when New York still feared for its economic future and lagged, in terms of Grade A office space, behind global competitors like London.

… The terms du jour are corporate welfare or socialism for billionaires. City officials sold Hudson Yards to New Yorkers as a self-financing venture. That’s not what it may sound like. The city and state provided tax incentives and poured billions of public dollars into an extension of the No. 7 subway line and into acres of open space around the yards — investments presumably benefiting everyone, which the project is supposed to pay back by increasing New York’s GDP.

The seed of Nazism’s ultimate objective—the preservation of a pure white race, uncontaminated by foreign blood—was in fact sown with striking success in the United States. What is judged extremist today was once the consensus of a powerful cadre of the American elite, well-connected men who eagerly seized on a false doctrine of “race suicide” during the immigration scare of the early 20th century. They included wealthy patricians, intellectuals, lawmakers, even several presidents. Perhaps the most important among them was a blue blood with a very impressive mustache, Madison Grant. He was the author of a 1916 book called The Passing of the Great Race, which spread the doctrine of race purity all over the globe.

Grant’s purportedly scientific argument that the exalted “Nordic” race that had founded America was in peril, and all of modern society’s accomplishments along with it, helped catalyze nativist legislators in Congress to pass comprehensive restrictionist immigration policies in the early 1920s. His book went on to become Adolf Hitler’s “bible,” as the führer wrote to tell him. Grant’s doctrine has since been rejuvenated and rebranded by his ideological descendants as “white genocide” (the term genocide hadn’t yet been coined in Grant’s day). In an introduction to the 2013 edition of another of Grant’s works, the white nationalist Richard Spencer warns that “one possible outcome of the ongoing demographic transformation is a thoroughly miscegenated, and thus homogeneous and ‘assimilated,’ nation, which would have little resemblance to the White America that came before it.” This language is vintage Grant.

The closest approximation in Chinese literature to this misattributed quote is a phrase from a Chinese opera composed sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries which observes that one would be better off being a dog in peaceful times than a man in times of chaos.

… However, Costinas, despite having seen that the curator is using the title ironically, still thinks organisers should not have made the “blunder” of calling it an ancient Chinese curse on the official website and in a widely disseminated press release, since this inadvertently promoted the phrase as “an Orientalist trope.”

It’s a common critique of the building. David Gebhard and Robert Winter, in their “Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles,” sing the praises of the building’s design, but note that “the layout of the the museum seems a bit strange. The public galleries are approached down a flight of stairs … From the street, these stairs are hardly apparent.”

Much of this had to do with the museum’s infamously complicated site: a steep patch of Bunker Hill real estate that abuts the double-decker Grand Avenue. In addition, the museum rests on top of a parking structure to which Isozaki had to conform his column grid.

Ó Macháin hopes the find can help overturn some misconceptions about Ireland at that time in history. “Ireland was very much pre-urban, and we remained pre-urban until the 17th century,” he says, “but what people don’t understand is that there were great schools of learning here, including medical schools.” In these Irish medical schools, unlike those in England or continental Europe, students studied in Irish rather than Latin, creating a unique repository of medical knowledge in a vernacular language. Nic Dhonnchadha’s upcoming full translation of the manuscript will reveal some key differences between the Latin version and its Irish counterpart.

Too many people today claim they plan according to Jacobs’ precepts while embracing Robert Moses’ pursuit of big, bold visions. Jacobs, of course, thought big too, but in a different way from Moses – not big demolition and car-based projects but big physical and social infrastructure like mass transit and library systems or big urban networks of smaller components like interconnected neighborhoods.

In the 1993 introduction to the Modern Library edition of Death and Life, Jane questioned the widespread claim that her book changed the urban development field. Interestingly, she divided the world into foot people and car people. For foot people, she agreed, the book gave “legitimacy to what they already knew but whom the experts of the day deemed old fashioned and stopping progress.”

d’Angelique isn’t the only one suffering buyer’s remorse. More than 50 people have signed up to a private chat group on Facebook for AFG clients that she created. Interviews with more than a dozen other AFG clients tell a similar story. The average price they paid per painting was about $25,000.

AFG’s website says it has served more than 1,000 clients. In an e-mail exchange, AFG initially said the company’s founder, Jeremy Kasler, would give an interview, but then said he would respond to written questions instead. On receiving the questions, the company said he was too busy to respond. In response to two subsequent emails, the company said there was no one else available to address the questions.

AFG isn’t the only company in Hong Kong offering to sell and then lease art. Elliot James & Tyndal also sells Chinese contemporary art with promises of an 8 percent return for two years, said Divine Fung, who bought one of their paintings after getting cold called by a sales representative. The company did not respond to emailed questions.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) will complete its $400m expansion this fall; last year it was engaged in drawn-out contract negotiations with employees at both its Midtown location (who are also represented by Local 2110) and at PS1 in Long Island City. On the West Coast, the reality of a $305m redesign rallied workers at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) who are organised with OPEIU Local 29. Nat Naylor, a representative for the union, called bargaining with management after the 2016 reopening of the museum “painful… They were trying to seek savings on the cost of reopening on the backs” of the staff members, she says.

The issue isn’t confined to the US. Just after the Vancouver Art Gallery revealed the final design for a new $350m building, almost 200 of its unionised employees went on strike over wages and working conditions. They protested for a week before securing a new contract.

Last Monday, doctors at the hospital conducted tests to assess the state of Quintana’s lungs. That evening, Wilharm told her mother and grandmother — Quintana’s wife of 58 years — that the pair should go home and get some rest.
Soon after a robot with a video screen came into the room, accompanied by a nurse who remained silent. A doctor on the screen began speaking to them.
Wilharm said she had no idea who the doctor was or where he was located.
She filmed the interaction on her phone as the doctor relayed the results of her grandfather’s tests.
In the footage viewed by CNN, the doctor on the screen tells Quintana, “Unfortunately there’s nothing we can treat very effectively.”

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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