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Thread: Is Liverpool's architectural boom all it's cracked up be? (an article)

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    Default Is Liverpool's architectural boom all it's cracked up be? (an article)

    Liverpool needs great modern architecture and it needs tall buildings… but what it needs are visionary and original designs which will set Liverpool apart as a city of architecture. Look how the Guggenheim defines Bilbao; the Opera House defines Sydney and the Gherkin defines the city of London… we want the architectural equivalent of the Lamborghini Countach or the Mini, classics of design; instead we get the Unity and Beetham towers, the architectural equivalents of the Ford Mondeo. ‘Executive’ and ‘corporate’ styles, which lack originality because the developers are first and foremost concerned with making a profit and at low risk; and the easiest way to do that is to not rock the boat, stick to what works. The ‘visionary’ new architecture in Liverpool is so ridiculously similar to that in Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds that you could almost write a brochure on how to build a tower block in a northern city:

    1. Opaque glass cladding sells, light blue and green are the colours of preference
    2. Lozenge shaped buildings with very gently curving facades are in.
    3. Buildings should rise straight out of the ground with no features of interest until you get to the top, there the building should slope or step back like the end of knife.

    We have seen some originality in individual buildings such as the slender rectangular Manchester Hilton and the box-topped Unity, but even then, the fact that so many aspects of these buildings are similar should ring alarm bells.

    Yuppies are taken in by developers’ intense marketing and believe that they are truly living in a work of architectural wonder and the heritage lobby know they don’t like it but don’t know why; leaving themselves open to accusations that they are just bashing it because it’s modern.

    People who point the finger of blame at developers are often reminded of the no-holds barred commercialism of Victorian builders as if this similarity means that architecture such as Unity is no different from the likes of the Liver Building. But there is one crucial difference between then and now… corporatism. The builders of 19th century office buildings, factories and housing estates were often run and owned by rich individuals, or a small group of close knit businessmen. They could take personal pride in what they were building, the spirit of philanthropy ran high and they wanted something which they could point to and say ‘I did that’. In the modern world of distant boards of directors based in London and New York, banks demanding business plans and thousands of shareholders wanting accountability, this pride in what you build cannot exist because no single person sees it as their baby. Even the architects may find their influence diluted by the influence of other architects and worst of all… of accountants.


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    Also, let’s not forget that in the years since Victorian Liverpool was built, the poor quality buildings have been removed leaving only the best. You can’t compare the Victorian buildings left standing today to just any modern building as we know the older buildings have passed the test of time which the modern buildings are yet to face. Put this way it is easy to see why the old building in Liverpool today are inherently ‘better’ than what you might build now. We need to try and build the buildings that will stand alongside our Victorian buildings as the heritage of the future.

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    Senior Member petromax's Avatar
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    I think you are right to suggest that it is difficult to get good buildings when the owners haven't got the same sense of personal involvement.

    More importantly, the power of buildings to advertise wealth and reliability has lost ground to advertising on the television and the accessibility of the internet. Just look at the strength of the Bank of England in Castle street and compare it with any of the desperately impoverished national bank branches in the city. To bank in Martin's Banking Hall in Water Street must have made customers feel very special. I'd rather bank on the internet that go into the HSBC slum at the bottom of Bold Street!

    Look at the Gherkin in London. No amount of mass TV marketing is going to help Swiss Re impress their niche market clients of how safe their hedge insurance schemes are (?). But a great building does wonders for their niche market within the City of London and that's what they commissioned. Look at Lloyd's; like it or hate it - it was cutting edge and a class act.

    Striking and attractive buildings are sought were image matters or in a competitive market. Hence the residential towers get some attention (and St Paul's will up Liverpool's game a bit).

    Having said that Manchester's Beetham Tower is a second rate rip off of an excellent Dominic Perrault design for a similar brief in France and Peel's central docks looks like a cutout session from a particularly nasty little architectural magazine from Dubai.

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    If I could just add another point to the point I ended my article on. Even now, the worst of post-war architecture is starting to fade away are more and more we are left with the best of it, such as Trellick Tower and Liverpool's Radio City Tower. It's because of this thinning out of the crap over time that it's inevitable that the ugly buildings in any city are most likely to be the modern ones.

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    PhilipG
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    I like both Beetham Towers in Liverpool, but not the one in Manchester.
    The Atlantic Tower Hotel is my favourite post-war building in Liverpool.
    It always reminds me of the prow of a ship.
    Sorry, forgot the Metropolitan Cathedral.
    I don't like St John's Tower (never did).
    It still looks like a chimney, which was the main reason for its existence.
    And the advertising for Radio City is so tacky, and shouldn't have been allowed.
    Last edited by PhilipG; 09-21-2007 at 08:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    I like both Beetham Towers in Liverpool, but not the one in Manchester.
    Seriously... I live in a flat from which I can see the original Beetham Tower... I have looked and looked and still I cannot see any architectural merit in it. was it designed by an accountant? It is by some margin the ugliest building in Liverpool... and I include the New Penny Farthing and James Street station in that.

    I guarantee that in thirty years time, when we look back at noughties architecture the same way we look back at sixties architecture now, the Old Beetham will be one of the first to be demolished.

    My favourite post war buildings (now demolished) I think were the Everton Park and Shiel Park concrete blocks and the Festival Garden Dome... I'm also a big fan of (not a building) the Churchill Way Flyovers and the Strand overpass (soon to be demolished), the radio city tower as mentioned before and Norwich House (facing the Oriel buildings across Rumford Place in a sort of sixties take on the oriel window)
    Last edited by scottieroader; 09-22-2007 at 03:42 AM.

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    PhilipG
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post
    Seriously... I live in a flat from which I can see the original Beetham Tower... I have looked and looked and still I cannot see any architectural merit in it. was it designed by an accountant? It is by some margin the ugliest building in Liverpool... and I include the New Penny Farthing and James Street station in that.

    I guarantee that in thirty years time, when we look back at noughties architecture the same way we look back at sixties architecture now, the Old Beetham will be one of the first to be demolished.

    My favourite post war buildings (now demolished) I think were the Everton Park and Shiel Park concrete blocks and the Festival Garden Dome... I'm also a big fan of (not a building) the Churchill Way Flyovers and the Strand overpass (soon to be demolished), the radio city tower as mentioned before and Norwich House (facing the Oriel buildings across Rumford Place in a sort of sixties take on the oriel window)
    It's a free country, and we all have different tastes, but those buildings you've mentioned (which I've highlighted) are disliked by most architectural authorities.
    I also loved the IGF dome.

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    I am not alone in agreeing that the flyovers must go and their removal is part of the city's movement plan.

    They absolutely devastate the life and activity of the city at this point and destroy the setting of the 'finest set of Grade I buildings in the country'.

    This and New Islington was a huge mistake that must be unravelled. I think it is recognised that designing a city as an engineering solution solely for cars has come to an end. If you look at old plans of Islington (running in front of the Walker Art Gallery) it makes so much more sense as a vibrant city thoroughfare that connected the inner city wards to the city centre rather than divorced them from it.

    City streets should have buses, cars, traffic, yes; people, shops, businesses, coffes shops, pubs, certainly; but not yards of alien structure and tarmac.

    As for Beetham 1, it is certainly a building of it's time when Liverpool was only just starting to get a bit of confidence back but it will last.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    ...I don't like St John's Tower (never did).
    It still looks like a chimney, which was the main reason for its existence.
    And the advertising for Radio City is so tacky, and shouldn't have been allowed.
    All the places were the 'tower for no reason' have worked (Toronto, Sydney, Paris, even Johannesburg) have had access to a public viewing gallery. The views were (or are) terrific.

    Right now it's a particularly high but shabby billboard.

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    Cadfael
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    The problem with today's world is that everything is done on computer using 3D models. They take a rectangle block and then 'pull it' in one direction to make a statement and then build it.

    That's why some cars these days are so ugly. There's been no thought whatsoever, just grab the mouse and pull and few panels around on 3D Studio until you have a slightly different shape.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cadfael View Post
    ...just grab the mouse and pull and few panels around on 3D Studio until you have a slightly different shape.
    Hey that's a good idea!! since it's so easy now I can understand why so many are doing it! Or could it be that I just know nothing whatsoever about what I am talking about?

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    I wouldn't say that there was anything good about the reason why the flyovers themselves are there (i.e. the prioritising of cars over pedestrians)... or that the rest of Hunter Street/Islington isn't awful... but I find the flyovers themselves particularly beautiful.

    Philip G... I wouldn't say that the Radio City tower is disliked by MOST architectural authories.

    The Atlantic Tower hotel is a great piece of architecture, but unfortunately a horrendous piece of urban design, it just hasn't been well integrated into the fabric of the city.

    I get the feeling that 20 or 30 years in the future everyone will be looking at Beetham 1 with the attitude that it was from a time when we were too desperate to get just any kind of development in the city to care what it looked like, what effect it would have on the urban environment or whether it would have a regenerative effect.
    Last edited by scottieroader; 09-22-2007 at 06:37 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post
    ... but I find the flyovers themselves particularly beautiful.
    yes but there is more to beauty than how a thing looks

    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post
    Philip G... I wouldn't say that the Radio City tower is disliked by MOST architectural authories.
    nevertheless it's not like because we all know it's original beautiful purpose (to give views of the city) failed and we are left with the ugly one (to be a chimney)

    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post
    ...Beetham 1 ...
    I think even Beetham would agree (look at Beetham 2 - much better)

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    Quote Originally Posted by petromax View Post
    nevertheless it's not like because we all know it's original beautiful purpose (to give views of the city) failed and we are left with the ugly one (to be a chimney)
    The original purpose was for ventilation.

    St. John's Beacon is the name of a tower in Liverpool, built in 1968. It is 102 metres (335 ft) high, 138 metres (452 ft) above sea level, and was built as a ventilation shaft for St. John's Market. Near the top of the tower was situated a revolving restaurant and on top of that a viewing platform.

    This is from the wikipedia site
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    Quote Originally Posted by shytalk View Post
    [B]...Near the top of the tower was situated a revolving restaurant and on top of that a viewing platform.

    This is from the wikipedia site
    Yes and a posh one at that; that gave 360deg views of the city. The waiters got used to stepping off the central bit that was fixed onto the dining bit that moved.

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    How wuld that effect wiring of the building if it rotated? Wuldn't the wires have goot tangled as it turned?
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    presumably the same way an electric train works

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    PhilipG
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    Quote Originally Posted by shytalk View Post
    The original purpose was for ventilation.

    St. John's Beacon is the name of a tower in Liverpool, built in 1968. It is 102 metres (335 ft) high, 138 metres (452 ft) above sea level, and was built as a ventilation shaft for St. John's Market. Near the top of the tower was situated a revolving restaurant and on top of that a viewing platform.

    This is from the wikipedia site
    Wikipedia is not a very reliable source.

    Here's what Quentin Hughes said in his book "Liverpool", published by Studio Vista in 1969, when St John's Precinct was nearing completion:
    "St John's Beacon, really a chimney disguised as a revolving restaurant, hovers 400ft. above the pavement, a land-mark from all parts of the city and a platform which will provide magnificent views."

    Joseph Sharples in his 2004 book, also called "Liverpool" says:
    "The dominant feature (of St John's Precinct) - also dominating much of the city centre - is the so-called Beacon, over 450 ft (137 metres) high, really a giant chimney for the boilers."

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    I must have been dreaming. Maybe it was the dodgy steak I had.

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    PhilipG
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    Default Beetham Tower.

    I like it.
    Admittedly the north-facing side isn't very good.


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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    I like it.
    Admittedly the north-facing side isn't very good.

    It just seems that they only put any effort into design on the profitable sides (i.e. facing over the water because the yuppies would rather not be reminded of the fact they are in that 'nasty little northern city with the dockers and the silly accents')

    The inward facing site and northern sides just look like the back of a building, like where you demolish all the buildings around an old building and see that the back is really ugly because it was invisible to everyone so noone could be bothered... except this isn't invisible. It's the city facing side of the one of the tallest buildings in the city.

    The rest of the building isn't especially original... Beetham West isn't too original either but at least it isn't downright ugly. It would be good as a minor building in a larger, more characterful cluster of tall buildings. Unfortunately due to the height, it could be a while before anything taller is built.

    Fortunately the proposal for the building ont he site of the old King Edward pub has come just at a time when developers are warming to the idea of being original rather than sticking to what has worked before. And the idea of it having a public restaurant on top is vital... it'll mean the building actually means something to ordinary Liverpudlians, while the Beetham towers mean nothing.
    Last edited by scottieroader; 09-23-2007 at 01:26 PM.

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    Fortunately the proposal for the building ont he site of the old King Edward pub has come just at a time when developers are warming to the idea of being original rather than sticking to what has worked before. And the idea of it having a public restaurant on top is vital... it'll mean the building actually means something to ordinary Liverpudlians, while the Beetham towers mean nothing.
    The new tower by Beetham will have a restaurant on the 34th floor with excellent views over The Mersey,The Wirral and North Wales.At the time it is built it will be the highest restaurant in Britain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul D View Post
    The new tower by Beetham will have a restaurant on the 34th floor with excellent views over The Mersey,The Wirral and North Wales.At the time it is built it will be the highest restaurant in Britain.
    that'll be nice... so long as you don't have to pay £200 just to get in.

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    Senior Member petromax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post
    ...the proposal for the building ont he site of the old King Edward pub has come just at a time when developers are warming to the idea of being original rather than sticking to what has worked before...
    But it looks like the NatWest Tower (Tower 42) wrapped in a Leopard Skin Kimono. Garbage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by petromax View Post
    But it looks like the NatWest Tower (Tower 42) wrapped in a Leopard Skin Kimono. Garbage.
    .

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    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post

    I'm also a big fan of (not a building) the Churchill Way Flyovers
    As someone who lived in a flat on Hunter Street, I have the total opposite view of the Churchill flyovers, and linked walkovers. The communites in the surrounding areas were desimated by the building of these carbuncles in the late 1960's. They serviced the commuter, and held no benefit to the residents, who never even owned a car.

    The flyovers led the way to further developments, such as the access roads to the Kingsway tunnel, all built on land occupied by council tennents (saving time on compulsary purchase orders!). These further isolated the Vauxhall community.

    At least we were spared this planners idea of a road system (see below), covering Scotland Road, St Anne Street, Islington and Norton Street (St George's Hall if top right).

    I do share you views on the current crop of 'corporate' buildings appearing within the city. I think these are as souless as a prefab Tesco, and add nothing to the city skyline.
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    Gardens; funny, I was only thinking that same thing when we drove down that way last weekend - the way that community was split up - quite literally and the heart and soul of it ripped out.
    I'm not an expert on that area, but I am aware that it was once a very busy community.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kev View Post
    How wuld that effect wiring of the building if it rotated? Wuldn't the wires have goot tangled as it turned?
    The kitchen/serving area, was static in the centre. The seating outer part rotated and the lights in that section were fed on a bus bar - like brushes in an electric motor or an electric train pickup on the line.

    The chimey aspect of the beacon was only small. It was the other way around the beacon came first - the beacon served as a chimney too, as it was convenient to do so. It was not a chimney and they put a restuarant on the top.

    I worked on it when under construction.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post
    Liverpool needs great modern architecture and it needs tall buildings… but what it needs are visionary and original designs which will set Liverpool apart as a city of architecture.
    Brunswick Quay Tower was one, however the city politicos turned it down. A Liverpool man and company too - Hargreaves the Matalan man. A billion pounds worth of investment snubbed. Then the knock on effect a high quality development brings - so probaly twice that figure.

    Look how the Guggenheim defines Bilbao; the Opera House defines Sydney and the Gherkin defines the city of London… we want the architectural equivalent of the Lamborghini Countach or the Mini, classics of design;
    We have that in the Three Garces - already there.

    instead we get the Unity and Beetham towers, the architectural equivalents of the Ford Mondeo. ‘Executive’ and ‘corporate’ styles, which lack originality because the developers are first and foremost concerned with making a profit and at low risk; and the easiest way to do that is to not rock the boat, stick to what works.
    Or what silly planners and politicos want. There have been countless very high and high quality proposals for Liverpool over the decades, yet apart from the second Beetham and the Metro Cathedral, no new buildings stand out in the city. In 1951 There was a proposal to build a 50 floor plus building in the old Custom House site. Turned down flat and the design emerged in New York as the Pan Am building - a NY landmark. The low rise tat that was built on the site in the late 1960s was appalling and eventually was demolished after a short time. Vison? The city is devoid of it. Yet only 100 years ago the city oozed confidence and originality. Nothing stopped the city from innovating.

    The ‘visionary’ new architecture in Liverpool is so ridiculously similar to that in Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds that you could almost write a brochure on how to build a tower block in a northern city:
    What do expect when every proposal has floors lopped off and years of planning delays. The developer then starts to see that they cannot maximise the potential of the site and cuts back on quality. Brunswick Quay had lengthy delays and came to nothing. Developers see this, and see Liverpool as no-go area and take their money somewhere else. A city still poor and turned down world-class designs and investment, is a seen as a do-nothing stuck-in-the-past place, unable to make any firm decisions on its own future.

    1. Opaque glass cladding sells, light blue and green are the colours of preference
    2. Lozenge shaped buildings with very gently curving facades are in.
    3. Buildings should rise straight out of the ground with no features of interest until you get to the top, there the building should slope or step back like the end of knife.
    The fashion of the time, like any other time - although you have a point about how they are at ground level. Then the developers cuts back at ground level because his original design had 25% of the floors lopped off by planners/heritage, etc.

    We have seen some originality in individual buildings such as the slender rectangular Manchester Hilton and the box-topped Unity, but even then, the fact that so many aspects of these buildings are similar should ring alarm bells.
    Unless you have a brilliant original designer, buildings that stand out cost. Unity is no run of the mill building, being a little different.

    People who point the finger of blame at developers are often reminded of the no-holds barred commercialism of Victorian builders as if this similarity means that architecture such as Unity is no different from the likes of the Liver Building. But there is one crucial difference between then and now… corporatism. The builders of 19th century office buildings, factories and housing estates were often run and owned by rich individuals, or a small group of close knit businessmen. They could take personal pride in what they were building, the spirit of philanthropy ran high and they wanted something which they could point to and say ‘I did that’. In the modern world of distant boards of directors based in London and New York, banks demanding business plans and thousands of shareholders wanting accountability, this pride in what you build cannot exist because no single person sees it as their baby. Even the architects may find their influence diluted by the influence of other architects and worst of all… of accountants.
    Some truth in that, however point to the planners/heritage people. Many developers do want to have high quality building that sell and command high rents. They are constantly turned down, so they take the easy way out.

    Also, let’s not forget that in the years since Victorian Liverpool was built, the poor quality buildings have been removed leaving only the best. You can’t compare the Victorian buildings left standing today to just any modern building as we know the older buildings have passed the test of time which the modern buildings are yet to face. Put this way it is easy to see why the old building in Liverpool today are inherently ‘better’ than what you might build now. We need to try and build the buildings that will stand alongside our Victorian buildings as the heritage of the future.
    Liverpool in the late 1800s/early 1900s built some high class, advanced, high quality buildings that are still around. They didn't have the constraints of the developers of today.
    Last edited by Waterways; 09-29-2007 at 03:59 PM.
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    Senior Member lindylou's Avatar
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    hello Waterways, glad you are back and posting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Gardens View Post
    As someone who lived in a flat on Hunter Street, I have the total opposite view of the Churchill flyovers, and linked walkovers. The communites in the surrounding areas were desimated by the building of these carbuncles in the late 1960's. They serviced the commuter, and held no benefit to the residents, who never even owned a car.

    The flyovers led the way to further developments, such as the access roads to the Kingsway tunnel, all built on land occupied by council tennents (saving time on compulsary purchase orders!). These further isolated the Vauxhall community.

    At least we were spared this planners idea of a road system (see below), covering Scotland Road, St Anne Street, Islington and Norton Street (St George's Hall if top right).

    I do share you views on the current crop of 'corporate' buildings appearing within the city. I think these are as souless as a prefab Tesco, and add nothing to the city skyline.
    Well like I said I don't like the dual carriageways from a functional/transport point of view... just the elegance of the flyovers as they cross Byrom Street. I walk under them twice a day and I love the contrast of them with William Brown Street.

    If something similar were to be proposed today I certainly wouldn't agree with decimating communities just so that we get beautiful engineering, but since they are here I think they should stay, even if Hunter Street was to be downgraded to it's original townscape rich form.

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