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Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Robert Propst Tries To Set Office Workers Free: 'Propst invented Action Office 2, a modular office system introduced in 1968. Its main innovation was the partition panel, a screen between 4ft and 6ft high, covered in padded fabric. For Propst, it was a way of giving workers control over "exposure overload" and the "continuous idiot salutations" necessary in bullpen offices where workers had to "invest in a recognition act every time someone goes by".' Related, Playtime.

Spoon and Tomago, a design and culture weblog / The Best Part, a daily art and design blog. Sample link, the paintings of Ian Carpenter / 'A Perfect Storm for Modernism', a rather bad-tempered rant about the longed-for implosion of 'modern architecture' thanks to the credit crunch. Related, Prince Charles' Poundbury Fire Station. Comparisons to Trumpton are cliched but inevitable and unavoidable (via).

World-viewing city walking at click opera: 'I want the internet to get ambient, to get dull', and a celebration of the subtle flaneurism facilitated by Google Streetview, bringing the daily mundanity that exists outside every window onto your desktop. The weblog has seemingly evolved from diary to scrapbook, with every pasted entry a little stab of attention deficiency designed to hook you in. Posted relentlessly one after the other, the weblog becomes little more than a box of digital truffles; good for a dip, but not all at once. Twitter is more of the same, a steady drip feed of information that is usually fascinatingly Pooterish but which crushes the ability to soak up text in larger doses.

Things that may or may not be related. Less Is More Again - A Manifesto by Gabrielle Esperdy, in which she suggests the modern refrain is 'Design Less! We must subject ourselves to a period of privation in which we refrain from designing and suspend the very practice of design itself'. On the other hand, another take on post-crunch econaesthetics comes in Bruce Sterling's Product Panic: 2009: 'The standard virtues of fine industrial design—safety, convenience, serviceability, utility, solid construction... well, when you're heading for the lifeboats, you can overlook those pesky little details'.

Hunch! is here, a decision-tree based site that sifts through preferences to help you make informed choices. The consensus seems to be that this will evolve into a kind of a uber-Kelkoo, whereby tastes and preferences are bolstered by consumer reviews to steer people towards buying things they actually need. How long before the phantom marketers sneak into the Hunch! arenas and try to skew things towards a particular product?

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Friday, March 27, 2009
Vanshnookenraggen has put together a couple of unbuilt Robert Moses highway maps using Google (via kottke). Someone should do this for the London Inner Ring Road. The CBRD's Ringways project is well worth your time.

Looking into the Past, a flickr set / the Architectural Review has redesigned / the AR as it once was / some more AR covers / covers from Architectural Design in the 1970s / a set of AJ covers from designers apfel.

The Steelcase Coordinated Office Approach, 'for the man of action'. You don't see many animal skins in modern day office decor. Check the appropriately-named I am a friend of the squirrels' photostream / Tiny Showcase, a gallery of prints for sale.

Vintage DHARMA ads / The Sonic Booms, a project by photographer Carlos Lobo (also on show at Jack) / earth images, 'a small part of the world's largest private collection of highly magnified, scanned images of the "insides" of rocks and minerals.' See also landscape marble / the mystery cat of Peckham.

The 70s Building Project, at the Twentieth Century Society (via The Times) / Signs of American Life, a portfolio by Stephen Tamiesie (who also photographed the Salton Sea).

Fine gallery of small SUVs with their roofs staved in / map of the week, a weblog / Looking for Love in all the statistically wrong places / interesting how the Tata Nano is being pitched as a kind of style object - Ten Things You Should Know About the Nano.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Russian prison deck (hand made), part of a collection of playing cards. See also the playing cards pool / a set of memos from 'Tiger Mike, Edward Mike Davis, owner of the Tiger Oil Company. Reminiscent of Robin Cooper's Timewaster Letters, but from the other side of the desk (via growabrain).

The Secret Passage in Practical Terms, a fine post on the art of concealing spaces for fun, theatrical and frankly sinister purposes. At DC's, Dennis Cooper's admirably information-saturated weblog (via me-fi) / make ping noises with ball droppings, a flash application / one imaginary blog, over analyse cure songs / step back to the muddy lanes of Glastonbury in 1980 / ticket collector, a collection.

Projects 084 and 085, undertaken at around about the same time that Google passed by / the great magazine die-off / Hyperkit visit Vitra, Weil-am-Rhein / an interesting take on half a millennia of apparently misdirected economic policies: Let it Die / Temple Mill, at Leeds Myths and Legends.

Fuzz, a documentary (via me-fi) / mapref41n93w and glowing raw, two highly recommended music blogs / 20 reasons not to fly Ryanair / One Spring Day / Clunkbucket / the 1955 Ideal House, still in splendid condition.

'Pop Music College is a subordinate school of Nanjing Arts Institute. It grows out of Subsidiary Piano Tune Specialized School of Nanjing Arts Institute that was jointly founded by Nanjing Arts Institute and Japan Central Instruments Technology Specialized School in November 1995... It was officially named Pop Music College of Nanjing Arts Institute in November 2005'.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is a planning exemption for large country houses producing the innovation that was intended?, a recent piece in Architecture Today by Timothy Brittain-Catlin summed up the state of big house building in the UK and the requirements of planning Clause PPG7 (mentioned on the site about six years ago). This originally stated that 'An isolated new house in the countryside may also exceptionally be justified if it is clearly of the highest quality, is truly outstanding in terms of its architecture and landscape design, and would significantly enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings,' as quoted in this Country Life article.

When revised to PPS7 in 2004, it was amended to state that 'very occasionally the exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design of a proposed, isolated new house may provide this special justification for granting planning permission... The value of such a building will be found in its reflection of the highest standards in contemporary architecture', our emphasis. Given that many of the clients angling for this kind of house in the first place favoured neo-classicism over radicalism, there was an inevitable tussle of ideologies.

Brittain-Catlin's piece ultimately dismisses the existence of a real rift, although he notes that certain members of the classicist contingent are quietly delighted that tradition frequently prevails over high-profile modern schemes. Most notably the abandonment of Kathryn Findlay's vast 'starfish' for the Grafton New Hall Site in favour of Robert Adam's vast neo-classical mansion. As the Independent noted last summer, ''Starfish house' plans are left dead in the water'. According to someone from Jackson Stops and Staff, it was never going to happen: "Say there are 10 buyers who want to build a country estate you can bet that nine of them will opt for a traditional classic design."

In the article, Findlay countered by saying that 'when the designs for Grafton Hall first came out, the Emir of Qatar immediately asked me to build something similar for his wife." And look what happened to that. Since we first posted that thread on 28 days later one of the job architects has posted on it: 'It was indeed weird and wonderful to see the pictures of Sheik Saud's unfinished villa. i was working at ushida findlay at the time and was in charge of the little ufo (majlis) for over a year, it had several nicknames: the mushroom, the sea urchin, and although the main villa was going to be the grand statement, i was always very fond of it's little M&M sidekick. we were all very sad when construction stopped due to the facts you described'.

See other PPG7/PPS7 houses mentioned in the article: in the classical corner, there is Quinlan Terry's Ferne Park and Great Canfield, Robert Adam's house at Ashley, Craig Hamilton's Lowther Park House and Tusmore House by Whitfield Lockwood (which replaced the original, demolished in the 1960s).

And for the moderns, we have the Corbin House by ShedKM, Paul+O Architects' The Wilderness House (pdf), houses by Eldridge Smerin, Marsh Grochowski Architects and Seymour Smith, and the Mines Farm house by 6a Architects.

If nothing else, many of these examples illustrate that ideological differences aside, the idea of the truly large house has become entirely redundant in the modern age, with no system of visual or spatial organisation up to the task. Aesthetic success seems closely tallied with scale.


Other things. Kasino A4 describes itself as "the most melancholy magazine" / finally, Google Streetview arrives in the UK / Slide Show Photographs, a new book by Adam Bartos. See also the inevitable but addictive flickr groups: Thriftstore Hell, Secondhand Toys and Yard Sales and Garage Sales / strangely fascinating designer caravans by German firm Tabbert / it's back, Paul Ford's annual music journalism marathon: Six-Word Reviews of 1,302 SXSW Mp3s.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009
We might have been a bit cynical about twitter yesterday, but this is great: Space Shuttle take off - Photos by Twitter users / the architectural abstractions of Felice Varini / Culturehall presents artists' portfolios. We especially like the documentary series by Martin Miller / 'cruel neorealistic every day object' photography by Jochen Braun.

Google phone tracker is fast track to divorce, says writer / From Porch to Patio, a (pdf) essay on the architectural transition from front to rear of house, public to private, a shift exemplified by the design of the American tract house, evolving from open structures to 'snout-first' designs that placed their outdoor social spaces at the rear / via kottke, who also posts this excellent guide to Growing Sentences with David Foster Wallace.

A full list of words banned by the Local Government Association. There is a certain rough concrete poetry to the selection:

Fast-Track Actioned Ambassador
Bottom-Up Holistic Improvement levers
Scaled-back Scoping
Provider vehicles Top-down Transparency
Quick hit
Quick win
Lever Iteration
Cascading Flex

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Images of China in the 1980s by Leroy W.Demery, via the Shenzhen Biennale weblog. Fascinating, e.g. steam locomotives from 1983 and an early image of Shenzhen itself, from 1980. The city today / Giant Soviet Signs Cut into Forests, self-explanatory post at Strange Harvest / photos by Susanne Ludwig.

After the rather glum 'day out with Corb' article by Lynsey Hanley several posts have surfaced offering trenchant criticism, especially My stupid day as a Corbu hater... at Douglas Murphy's Entschwindet und Vergeht, and an earlier deconstruction by Nigel Warbuton (Goldfinger biographer, no less).

The Pocket Square, a new weblog / Juxtapoz publishes a selection of work by Alex Lukas. Very (although not deliberately?) Ballardian / Bristol Models at First Gear Collector / Vague Terrain / On mobile cities, Archigram, invisible networks and ubicomp.

Everyone is suddenly on twitter, twittering a constant buzz of architectural and cultural criticism from one to another. This unseen world is something of a revelation to us. See feeds from Kieran Long, Hugh Pearman, Ian Martin (amusing), Sam Jacob, Geoff Manaugh, Jimmy Stamp, Alexander Trevi.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ebb of Memory, Kevin Slavin writing on digital archiving and recollection: 'The sharp upswing in all of this record-keeping – both active and passive – are redefining one of the core elements of what it means to be human, namely to remember. We are moving towards a culture that has outsourced this essential quality of existence to machines, to a vast and distributed prosthesis. This infrastructure exists right now, but very soon we’ll be living with the first adult generation whose entire lives are embedded in it.' Concluding: 'For the next generation, it will be impossible to forget it, and harder to remember.' At EDGE.

Icon's editor takes a lie detector test. Every magazine editor should have to do the same / Lynsey Hanley has a 'miserable day as Le Corbusier' / Underground City, about which more on flickr / Vanity Fair turns against its own, an editorial 180 noted at Transracial / huge, image heavy page of retro futurist concepts, many from the former Soviet Union / the Polygraph Museum / irresistable, old maps of London.

Ctrl-N Journal, a cartographic weblog. Highly recommended. See particularly the link to Windows of the Mind, a recent Guardian piece on the subconscious art of domestic psychology, the way placement of windows or walls might upset or enhance your experience of a space.

The Claremont Institute's is rich with Clancey-esque scenarios about possible future ICBM attacks on the US. Essential reading for strategic planners in the Axis of Evil. Includes jittery quicktime movies of the Chinese obliterating Los Angeles, a conservative fantasy if ever there was one.

Conditions Magazine, coming soon / Redub reader repackages key articles in a slick format / What We Do is Secret, actually, what we do is collate enormous quantities of visual material about new architecture in Japan and elsewhere / now that's a toolkit / The dieline tackles new water packaging, with an ethical caveat. Could it be true that 'working on new water brands [has] started to seem tantamount to working on cigarettes'? / art by Richard Galpin / art by Holger Lippmann.

Savage Messiah, a website by Laura Oldfield Ford / the Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions, via experts getting it wrong / Vague Terrain, a weblog / art, imagery, fashion, etc., at Mafia Hunt / the Artylizer, yet more visual sharing / above image from Toronto Scientific and Surplus / who needs Amazon when there's the Cosmic Ordering website?

My Year in Outfits at stickers and donuts (high flight) / art by Nathan Abels / Yolanda Bello's frankly rather creepy dolls (also creator of the my first McDonalds doll) / Have Fun with a Lie Detector / we need to help with this / back in pre-credit crunch times (July 2006), the NYT produced a fine piece on Russian style. Reminiscent of Daniela Rosell's photo series Ricas Y Famosas (also featured in Colors).

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A few months ago there was an online gallery about the Great American Catalog at tmn, the kind of saturated colour nostalgia that the web does so well. It reminded us to revisit these classic collections of 27 Christmas catalogs at Wishbook's photostream. This is nostalgia so fierce it makes your eyes water; even a world one wasn't necessarily a part of can somehow tug at the memories (the 1975 Sears Christmas Catalog), for example.

In Eccentric Spaces, Robert Harbison writes of John Ruskin's descriptions of Venice, noting how the Victorian critic effectively used the page and the written word to turn the entire city into a museum, weaving an apparently casual path between objects - things - of interest to generate an informed narrative that transcends the static, closed and contrived cabinet-bound world of the museum collection.

So is the internet a city or a museum? The relentless wandering we seem to do all day long along its virtual corridors would imply the latter, but from the early days of an 'information superhighway,' the metaphorical thrust has been for a parallel, virtual urbanism, a 'city of bits'. That analogy certainly implies less coherence than the codified, quantified and curated world of the museum. As Harbison notes in the chapter entitled 'Contracted World: Museums and Catalogues', 'Like the dictionary a museum cannot be enjoyed passively. The spectator must decide what is background and what foreground. Nothing tells him he is not supposed to look at everything; he must learn it is not feasible.'

The museum is an organisational structure that soaks up and reflects its surroundings. More Harbison: 'There was a kind of Victorian museum that imitated luxurious domestic furnishing, filling itself with velvet sofas and heavily carved wooden cases, dark fabrics on the walls setting off statues on pedestals that faced each other as if about to start into life, even sketched each other.' These museums - the domestic wunderkammers (a genre crowned perhaps by Sir John Soane's private masterpiece) - ultimately belong in a minority, overshadowed by the splendour, gravitas and authority of the new grand institutions. Private collections were combined, as at the V and A, and placed within temples to collectomania. The American institution excelled in particular, for, according to Harbison, 'they exist out of the world, cloistered and shut off to a degree not found elsewhere... [with a] need to embody all the possibilities of refinement, to bring in one massive Ark of all the history we haven't had.'

The Victorian museum template is essentially paradisal, rendering the known and unknown world into dioramas that rationalised, explained and chronicled objects through narratives and organisation, often especially constructed for the occasion. For our modern minds, this is not enough - the object can't simply be placed within an imaginary context and expect to be contained. Harbison again: 'Yet many preserved specimens seem to sharpen the division between the past and the present, the saved thing pointing up and clarifying the newness of all the rest.'

Dioramas and other contrivances couldn't contain everything, and were inevitably juxtaposed with cluttered galleries of accumulation. The Victoria and Albert Museum's Cast Courts are a case in point, as are the print rooms which proliferated in the C19. 'Another of the styles which people have by their acquisition imposed on art, the print room, also dilutes the meaning of objects by massing them. With their hundreds of ungainly close albums these places are not correspondent complications of experience to libraries of books.'

So is the internet - the internet of objects, designs, creativity, cataloguing and chronicling - merely a modern day cast court or print room? All 'work' is reduced and resized, hung on the same gallery walls and given the same passing glance, the glancing perusal of the perpetually scrolling museum. Just as the dense clusters of imagery that marked early museums contrasted strongly with the more open, expansive, curated galleries that subsequently evolved, the internet of objects appears increasingly at odds with the internet of connectivity and expanded human horizons. How will we deal with the growing distinction between cabinets within rooms within corridors within buildings within streets within cities?

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Tim Schwarz's Paris - Physical, 2007, 'The piece is attached via a network cable to the internet where it monitors news and search results for "paris hilton" and "paris france" and displays an average result in real-time.' / amazing landscape textiles by Ray Reynolds / Anti-mega on the joy of guide books / Beautiful Eyeballs, Fed by Birds on a new online exhibition at the Science Museum in London.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

100 Abandoned Houses, a photographic series by Kevin Bauman, just one of many, many projects collated by SpaceInvading, an new(ish) aggregator site that scrapes the architecture and design blogs for a selection of bold thumbnails of new architecture. It's a bit like a ffffound for architecture, with similar problems to that site's relentless spool of 'cool new work' and gratuitous eye candy. Ultimately, the net cast by SpaceInvading seems to suggest that now, for the first time in modernism's near 100-year history, the hunger for innovation and the avant-garde has reached a kind of critical mass, a mass popularity that no amount of propogandising and eulogising by the conventional architectural press managed to achieve.

The sheer volume of imagery of 'modern architecture' rather than, say, 'traditional architecture' has effectively ended modernist's stance as the 'other', inverting the conventional relationship between the ordinary and the avant-garde. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that the conventional house, the pitched-roof, unironic, neo-vernacular, Monopoly-token symbol of domestic shelter is underrepresented, especially given its overwhelming dominance in the 'real world'. Do a google image search for 'house' and 5 out of 18 images on the first page correspond to 'modern' designs. Cast around the design blogs, and the archetype has been replaced by a new domestic object, the box, whether white, wooden, crisp, slanted, cantilevered, stealthy, or simple.


Fantastic Journal on The Odd Couple of Terry Farrell and Nick Grimshaw, once an architectural partnership of some interest, despite their inherent ideological differences. Today both are pillars of the establishment. This is the flipside of the architectural eye candy feeder site; a neat little piece of historical research, containing fresh thoughts on key aspects of architectural history that just wouldn't be found in any other format or place.

Margate in the 1920s (via haddock) / also via h, we mentioned the book Chicken: Low Art, High Calorie in a recent post. Apparently it also contains an interview with Morris Cassanova (aka Mr Chicken) / a new architectural anthropomorphism at Shanghai 2010: Bob the Lost Dog Building (shades of Nigel Coates' Body Zone - 'A poisoned chalice from the start') and Macau's Rabbit in a basket.

25 times a second, a tumblr with an architectural focus / 15 skyscrapers on hold, one of oobject's contemporary curations / Becks Futures, collecting Britart beer bottles / the fallacy of symbolic height / East eats West, a weblog from Switzerland that seems to offer some useful insights into the country's culture and the world of luxury goods in particular.

The Michael Jackson Catalogs / Design your Own Cabanon, 45 minute holiday retreats / The Mess We're In: Britain's dogs produce 1,000 tonnes of poo a day / Soundscrapers, 'A sonic slice through the global military atmosphere', short broadcasts from abandoned spaces (via archinect) / The Happy Pontist, 'A blog from the UK about bridges and bridge design', with a special focus on competitions.

The Hollaway Wall, Manchester / torn1, a weblog with an architectural focus / Apuntes Criticos, Spanish language, but visually rich for non-speakers / contains a huge gallery of images from the golden era of automotive coachbuilding and beyond / more Corb Cabanon, this month's fetish building of choice /, over 2,500 'one eye photographs'.

Rulers of the world, a clickable map / The Beauty in Brutalism, Restored and Updated / dothomes is a property finding website, which will apparently shortly become onemap / house-hunting adventures of the real-estate kind at Housespotting / Travel with Frank Gehry, an architecture blog (which presumably isn't written by someone sitting in Frank's pocket) / visions of future past, a gallery at weburbanist.

The Modelmaker, a weblog / Marcle Models, supplying card kits / an archive collapses in Cologne, 1000 years of physical knowledge compressed, crushed and destroyed. Image / intentional deconstruction, paintings by Ben Grasso (at Colectiva) / Blitz and Blight, 'a growing resource of information about Britain’s changing landscape and the contention it has caused'.

What has the weblog taught us? That an exclusive, singular focus is now one of the rarest commodities in contemporary culture. To be connected is to void your ability to be entirely without influence. Worse still, to be involved in creating comment - such as this weblog - destroys the objectivity of solitary focus, broadening everyone's aesthetic and cultural horizons to the point where our attention is unable to be satisfied by depth. We are unable to focus.

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Photography by Andras Gefeller, including the Supervisions project, which feature carefully stitched together birds-eye views of every day scenes, each composed of hundreds of individual images / oh we like this: design books, a collection / the collections of Vladimir Arkhipov. See also Arkhipov wrote Home Made, a gazetteer of improbably but essential (to their makers) anti-consumer objects, created for a highly specific purpose. His "Museum of the Handmade Object" project is very low key, much like these objects, which could sit unnoticed on a shelf or in a cupboard, untroubled by taxonomers or anthropologists / For Once, We Welcome Your Bulldozers, Russian conservationists finally agree with developers / old cars never die, they just go to China.

New things that look like old things. Announcing UPPERCASE magazine, which has that 60s art directed vibe, at least on the cover. In the other corner, Icon tears a strip off the new Routemasters, or at least the design competition to find a worthy successor to the original bus. But alas, all is not well, and 'the designs are rife with cuddly, friendly, smiley anthropomorphism'. This is partly due to the way the Routemaster has been drilled into the public consciousness as both a design 'icon' and an example of British engineering skills at their best. Any attempt to recreate them is dabbling in nostalgia, a dangerous commodity that resists being controlled. Good piece: 'Foster's entry looks like a bone to gratify the polo-necks.'

Some more about nostalgia (and long titles are back): Attending the NME Awards With Pete Doherty and a Whole Bunch of Actual Musicians, Feeling Nostalgic, a new Letter from London.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

'We're in danger of losing our memories', in which Dame Lynne Brindley, BL CEO, worries about the impermeance of digital culture and the ongoing problem of archiving the world (via me-fi). The Daily Mail quotes historian Tristram Hunt: 'Do we want to keep the Twitter account of Stephen Fry or some of the marginalia around the edges of the Sydney Olympics? I don’t think we necessarily do.' Hunt rather misses the fact that history is shaped by marginalia. Mind you, Lynne Brindley predicted the end of conventional printing by 2020 back in 2005.

Stuffing our faces (with information), redub on the cultural loss of 'freezing things in print' / roof dwellings from a bygone era (via Treehugger) / emu graphic design has a weblog / digital culture tracked at serial consign / Delayed Echoes, a weblog / a movie of Greeble City over at Digital Urban - demonstrating how quickly the building blocks of imaginary digital cities can be put together.

Beirut is an amazing cityscape. Images by Cristobal Palma / infuriating piece of retro-post-digital design / 300 images from 1800 sites (via see saw) / Bryan McKay's weblog / Unburying the Lead, tumbling with more words than one usually finds on this kind of site / Vaughn Shirley's weblog. See also Filthy Skies / Cut with flourish, a tumblelog.

Must we kill the street? at sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy, which also links to Au carrefour Ètrange, a mostly nsfw trawl through old imagery / photographs by Gaia Cambiaggi / Sy Willmer builds houseboats and other things / but does it float, a tumble log / Windows 7, is it worth it?

Marginalia and other crimes, a photographic survey of 'the destruction to the collections [of the Cambridge University Library' caused by some of its readers' / The Valve, a literary organ / William Mullingar Higgins's book The House Painter, or, Decorator's Companion ('Being a Complete Treatise on the Origin of Colour, the Laws of Harmonious Colouring, the Manufacture of Pigments, Oils, and Varnishes: and the Art of House Painting, Graining, and Marbling: To Which is Added, a History of the Art in All Ages') was published in 1841. The 'plates' which illustrate it are actually painted paper which is grained or marbled by an artist'.

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