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Architecture of the Territory: Constructing National Narratives in the Arab World


Co-published with Collective for Architecture


Architecture of the Territory examines the role that national narratives have in defining the Arab world through the use of architecture and urban planning. The book is a collection of 30 essays from various countries in the Arab world.

This territory, almost twice the size of the United States and home to 423,000,000 inhabitants, lacks sufficient and accessible research. In order to advance knowledge and critical thinking, this publication uncovers some of the mechanisms and narratives that have shaped the territory and its society. The selected essays, written by researchers and professionals, are the beginning of a dialog, touching on themes such as agricultural strategies, imported housing typologies, the issues inherited from colonial borders, and the effect of politics on infrastructure projects and cultural heritage. While critical contributions draw on local histories and context, they also run in parallel and contribute to the discourse on current global issues.

With contributions by:

Ahmad AlAqra, Ali Karimi, Asaiel Al Saeed, Aseel Alyacoub, Atef Alshehri, Balsam Madi, Ben Tosland, Carine Assaf, Christine Mady, Dena Qaddumi, Eleftheria Exarchou, Faysal Tabbarah, Francois Nour, Galila Elkadi, Hamed Bukhamseen, Hanadi Samhan, Hareth Ramzi, Hicham Bouzid, Inass Yassin, Ines Tazi, Jumanah Abbas, Mahdi Sabbagh, Mahmud Tantoush, Majd Murad, Mazen Haidar, Mina Akhavan, Noor Toshani, Nour Joudah, Omniya Abdel Barr, Pieter Van denBroeck, Rana Beiruti, Rand Abdul Jabbar, Saphiya Abu Al-Maati, Sawsan Abou Zainedin, Yasmin Huleileh, Yasmine Kherfi. 

About the Authors

Jumanah Abbas

Jumanah Abbas is an architect, writer, and curator who works through an ecology of interdisciplinarity that engages with architecture debates, concepts, and dialogues. Her projects include collaborations with institutes and universities, such as “Mapping Memories of Resistance: The Untold Story of the Occupation of the Golan Heights,“ a project with London School of Economics, Birzeit University, and Al Marsad, Arab Human Rights Center in Golan Heights. Abbas worked on Tasmeem Biennial 2022, themed around Radical Futures, by Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was appointed the curator of spatial design. She is currently working towards the realization of the upcoming Qatar Museums’ quadrennial project, a multi-site art exhibition opening in 2024.

Omniya Abdel Barr

Omniya Abdel Barr is an architect who specializes in Islamic art and architecture. She holds a PhD on Islamic history from Provence University, Aix-Marseille, France (2015) and an MSc in the conservation of historic towns and buildings from the KUL, Leuven, Belgium (2004). In London, she is the Barakat Trust Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum leading the digitization project on KAC Creswell’s photographic collections on Islamic architecture. In Cairo, she is working with the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation on projects dedicated to documenting and rescuing Historic Cairo’s architectural heritage and preserving traditional craftsmanship. Omniya is co-curating the first Islamic Arts Biennale which will take place in Jeddah in December 2022, under the Diriyah Biennale Foundation.

Rand Abdul Jabbar

Rand Abdul Jabbar borrows from and reconstructs the ephemera of place, history and memory, employing design, sculpture and installation as primary mediums of operation. Examining and engaging with historic, cultural, and archeological narratives, she interrogates the fragility of tangible heritage to create and compose forms that draw on artifacts, architecture, and mythology. Simultaneously, she explores and contests with individual and collective memory to produce fragmentary reconstructions of historic events and past experiences. Her work has been exhibited at Shubbak Festival (UK), SAVVY Contemporary (Germany), Rabat Biennale (Morocco), Biennale d'Architecture d'Orléans (France), Abu Dhabi Art, Warehouse 421, NYU Abu Dhabi and Jameel Arts Centre (UAE). Abdul Jabbar has participated in residencies with the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (Singapore), Warehouse 421, the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, Tashkeel, and the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation (UAE). She also maintains a writing practice and has contributed texts to Monumental Shadows (Art Jameel), the Kuwait Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Bayn Journal, WTD Magazine and Warehouse 421. Abdul Jabbar received a Master of Architecture from Columbia University in 2014.

Sawsan Abou Zainedin

Sawsan Abou Zainedin is a Syrian architect and urban development planner based in London. She holds MSc in urban development planning with distinction from the Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit of University College London. She also holds a post-graduate diploma from the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies at Erasmus University and a BA in Architecture from the University of Aleppo. Abou Zainedin’s work addresses the spatial manifestations of conflicts through research and practice, with a focus on the political, socioeconomic, and technical challenges of urban development and reconstruction in Syria. She has worked with academic institutions, think tanks, INGOs, civil society organizations, and the private sector as an independent consultant and researcher. She is the co-founder of Sakan Housing Communities, a non-profit social enterprise for developing inclusive and socially just housing programs to aid recovery in Syria.

Saphiya Abu Al-Maati

Saphiya Abu Al-Maati is an architect and researcher. She holds a MA in architecture from Columbia University and a BA in Peace Conflict Studies/Human Security from the University of California, Berkeley. As one of four curators for the Kuwait National Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, she co-leads the project Space Wars. Her research on the influence of regional political parties on the development of Kuwait has been presented at the UNESCO World Heritage Conference (Bahrain), as well as the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments Conference (Portugal). She has been awarded the Science Po + KFAS Travel Grant for the study of diplomacy, anthropology, climate, and conflict; and has co-taught studio courses at Barnard College and Columbia University GSAPP. Abu Al-Maati has also worked as an advisor to the Hareer and Boubyan Development Agency, in addition to the Kuwait Council of Ministers, consulting on upcoming national urban projects.

Ahmed AlAqra

Ahmed Al-Aqra is an architect, artist, and researcher currently pursuing his doctoral studies at the Université de Paris after receiving his BA from Birzeit University and his MA from Edinburgh University in architecture and urbanism. He works on investigating and devising emancipatory spatial tools by tracing the daily life practices of the inhabitants in extraterritorial and extrajudicial geographies, using a multidisciplinary approach that combines art, philosophy, and architecture. Al-Aqra co-founded the Fana collective, which adopts the idea of deconstruction as a first step towards a more contextual cultural and spatial production. In addition, he has curated and co-curated several exhibitions in Palestine and abroad. His latest exhibition, People by the sea, was shown at the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit.

Mina Akhavan

Mina Akhavan is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Researcher at TU Delf, the faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Department of Architecture. Previously, she was a postdoctoral research fellow and adjunct professor at Politecnico di Milano, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, where she received a PhD degree in spatial planning and urban development (2015). Her research interests also include globalization trends and logistics networks; transnational urbanism; sharing economy, and new emerging workplaces. She has published in several peer-reviewed journals and wrote the book entitled: Port Geography and Hinterland Development Dynamics (in Springer).

Asaiel Al Saeed

Asaiel Al Saeed is an architect who obtained her Bachelor of Architecture from Kuwait University in 2019. While working in various practices and projects in the realms of architecture and research, she taught undergraduate architecture and civil engineering at Kuwait University. In 2021, her independent research and initiative titled Agriculture as a Territorial Mark, which explores the urban development of the city of Jahra in relation to its agricultural heritage, was recognized for Excellence in Architecture, Planning & Housing by the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs. Al Saeed was appointed co-curator of Kuwait’s National Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2021, commissioned by the National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters (NCCAL).

Atef Alshehri

Atef Alshehri is an architect and urbanist with a focus on architecture, heritage and culture. His professional experience covers a wide array of projects, including strategic regional development and cultural destinations. His practice is informed by a continuous research agenda concentrating on the cultural and urban development of cities in the MENA region. His scholarly contribution is recognized through a number of conference participations and academic fellowships at leading institutions, such as the University of California-Berkeley, and Cambridge University, UK. His latest publications appeared recently in journals, such as the Journal of Public Space, the Middle East Quarterly and ABE: Architecture Beyond Europe.

Carine Assaf

Carine Assaf is a PhD researcher in the Planning and Development and Research unit of the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven, Belgium. She holds a MA in Urbanism and Strategic Planning (2018) from KU Leuven, and a BA in Architecture (2016) from Notre Dame University, Louaize (NDU), Lebanon. Her dissertation focuses on the interplay between transport-related institutions and local initiatives studied through a socio-spatial institutionalist planning framework in Brussels and Beirut.

Aseel AlYaqoub

Aseel AlYaqoub holds a MA in fine arts from Pratt Institute, New York (2015) and a BA from Chelsea College of Art, London (2009). She co-curated the Kuwait Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, (Space Wars) with Yousef Awaad, Saphiya Abu Al-Maati, and Asaiel AlSaeed. AlYaqoub has participated in exhibitions including Foreman Gallery at Bishop’s University in Canada, The Media Majlis at Northwestern University in Doha, and the Sultan Gallery in Kuwait. Her work and essays have been featured in various publications such as Deserts Are Not Empty edited by Samia Henni, Iridescent Kuwait: Petro-Modernity and Urban Visual Culture Since the Mid-Twentieth Century by Laura Hindelang and Pfeil Magazine by Montez Press. AlYaqoub's research-based and interdisciplinary practice ranges from writing, drawing, and printmaking to video, sculpture, and performance. Various visual languages characterize her work, which is defined by her inquisitorial and academic approach that travels across the fields of history, architecture, and cultural sociology. Her explorations revolve around the inherited methodologies used for nationbuilding, the role of state apparatuses in defining nationhood, and the nation's processes for self-identification after imperial dissolution and reattachment.

Rana Beiruti

Rana Beiruti is a curator and the founder/ director of platform, a curatorial collective and consultancy focused on research and learning programs in design, art, and architecture. She is also the co-founder and director of Amman Design Week. Her work lies at the intersection of knowledge production, cultural engagement, and community development.

Hicham Bouzid

Hicham Bouzid is a cultural practitioner and independent curator. Since 2010, he collaborated with several art and cultural institutions in Morocco and abroad. Bouzid is the co-founder and artistic director of Think Tanger, a cultural platform that explores the urban space and social fabric of Tangier through projects operating at the crossroad of contemporary art, design, participatory research and urban fields, featuring also an atelier for visual art production focusing on printing practices. He recently published MAKAN, a cultural magazine that tackles questions about art, architecture, and urbanism. In his curatorial practice, Bouzid uses exhibitions, seminars, talks podcasts, open studios, prints, and books to reflect on the present-day dynamics of Moroccan society, and create new narratives around Tangier and Morocco.

Hamed Bukhamseen

Hamed Bukhamseen is an architect and educator based in Kuwait City. He is the co-founder of Civil Architecture, a practice operating out of Bahrain and Kuwait. Previously, he has worked for local and international firms in the US, Germany, and Japan. Aimed primarily at the intersection of art and architecture across the urban realm, his work has been published in numerous media outlets and has been exhibited in Cambridge, Rome, Venice, and Dublin. In 2016, alongside Ali Karimi, he was a co-curator of Kuwait‘s pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – Venice Biennale with the project titled Between East & West: A Gulf. He is currently a faculty member at the Kuwait University, College of Architecture, where he teaches design studios and seminars. Bukhamseen is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and the Harvard University, Graduate School of Design earning degrees in architecture, fine arts, and urban design.

Galila El Kadi

Galila El Kadi is the emeritus research director of the Urban and Regional Planning Department at the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD/ France), where she was responsible for the Urban Environment research unit. In addition to her teaching activities at French and Egyptian universities, she was head of the Department of Architecture at the French University in Egypt (FUE). She co-founded the MA program on cultural heritage at the FUE in partnership with the University of Paris 1 Sorbonne. She is currently one of the international experts in UNESCO specializing in the conservation of the urban and architectural heritage on modernities in the Arab world. El Kadi acted as a consultant to the governor of Cairo for the rehabilitation project of Khedivian Cairo between 2013 and 2017. Among her awards, are those from the ICOM and the Organization of Islamic Capitals and Cities. She was the author of Cairo Centre in Movement (2012) and co-author of the Architecture for the Dead, Cairo Medieval Necropolis, (2007), and the co-editor of Rashid, Birth, Prosperity and Decline (2000).

Eleftheria Exarchou

Eleftheria Exarchou is a civil engineer specialized in transport infrastructures. In 2019, Eleftheria received her MA in urban planning and policy design from the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Politecnico di Milano, where she been a teaching assistant in courses of “Landscape Urbanism“ and “Urban Planning“. Her research activity focuses also on port cities, with her MA dissertation entitled “The impact of Global Terminal Operators on Port Infrastructures and Urban Development. The case of Dubai Ports World“. Currently, Exarchou is working with local governments and public entities as a consultant engineer and urban planner, dealing with issues related to urban development and regeneration.

Nour Joudah

Nour Joudah is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in geography at the University of California-Berkeley. Her work examines mapping practices and indigenous survival and futures in settler states, highlighting how indigenous countermapping is a both cartographic and decolonial praxis. Joudah completed her PhD at UCLA and her dissertation Mapping Decolonized Futures: Indigenous Visions for Hawaii and Palestine is a study that focuses on efforts by Palestinian and native Hawaiian communities to imagine and work toward liberated futures that center indigenous duration as a non-linear temporality. Joudah also has a MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, and wrote her MA thesis on the role and perception of exile politics within the liberation struggle, in particular among politically active Palestinian youth living in the United States and occupied Palestine.

Mazen Haidar

Mazen Haïdar holds an MPhil in Architectural Conservation from the University of Rome Sapienza and a PhD in Architecture from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne with “The reception and appropriation practices of modern architecture in Beirut“ as a subject. As a practicing architect, he led and participated in several conservation and adaptation projects of 20th century buildings in Lebanon. He has taught since 2011 at various Lebanese and French academic institutions such as the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University and the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris Belleville. He is currently Associate Professor at the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris Malaquais. Among his publications Città e memoria, Beirut, Berlino, Sarajevo (Bruno Mondadori, 2006) and La ferronnerie architecturale à Beyrouth au XXe siècle (Éditions Geuthner, 2021).

Yasmin Huleileh

Yasmin Huleileh is an artist, music curator, and co-founder of the Fana collective. She holds a BA in law and business from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. Huleileh’s work aims to disassemble the cultural atmosphere of our everyday life practices—its process attempts to disrupt the cultural traditions and liberate them from colonial and patriarchal roots. She has published several papers on topics related to cultural heritage and state-building and curated several music events in Ramallah, Cairo, Amman, and London. Huleileh coedited the Black Journal, Fana’s first paper publication, and currently curating and co-editing the second journal; RED.

Ali Ismail Karimi

Ali Ismail Karimi is an architect whose work explores public space, ecology, and the extractive landscapes of the Middle East. He is the co-founder of Civil Architecture, an architecture office based in Manama and Kuwait City. Civil Architecture's work has been shown at the Sharjah Architecture Triennale, Oslo Triennale, Seoul Biennale, and Expo 2020. In 2016, alongside Hamed Bukhamseen, he curated the Kuwait Pavilion titled “Between East and West: A Gulf“ at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. He had previously worked in Belgium with OFFICE KGDVS, and in Chile with Alejandaro Aravena/Elemental, and taught at the University of Bahrain as an adjunct professor. His writings have been published in various media outlets including San Rocco, Architectural Review, and e-flux. Karimi earned his MArch from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and is currently a visiting critic at Rice School of Architecture.

Yasmine Kherfi

Yasmine Kherfi is a PhD candidate at the LSE Department of Sociology. She is an assistant editor at the LSE Middle East Centre, and previously managed select projects as part of the Centre’s Academic Collaboration with Arab Universities Programme. Kherfi holds a BA in political science and Middle East studies from the University of Toronto, and a MA in development administration and planning from University College London.

Balsam Madi

Balsam Madi is an interdisciplinary architect and urbanist. Her undergraduate thesis in architecture at the American University of Beirut (AUB), analyzes Beirut’s influential stakeholders in contemporary residential architecture, to propose user-centered housing. Afterward, Madi received a full DAAD scholarship to pursue an MSc in integrated urbanism and sustainable design between the University of Stuttgart and Ain Shams Cairo where she acquired skills to develop integrated and transdisciplinary solutions for planning, managing, and designing cities, landscapes, and buildings. Her MSc thesis topic Processes Behind Regional Planning in Lebanon’s Hinterland, innovates in analyzing territorialization processes through policy network methodologies. These methodologies were later applied in her consultancies and research. In 2016, she joined AUB’s Design Impact Lab as co-lecturer of a professional course. She also established her own practice, BM Studio; and selected projects include upgrading Saida’s historic district and a co-living/ co-working project in Athens.

Christine Mady

Christine Mady is an associate professor in architecture, urban design, and urban planning at Notre Dame University- Louaize, Lebanon. Her research covers public spaces with a focus on unstable contexts, specifically Beirut, Lebanon. Mady investigates the role of public spaces in urban resilience, social integration, everyday life and social practices, public health, and mobility. Mady is a member of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the AESOP thematic group on Public Spaces and Urban Cultures.

Majd Murad

Majd Murad studied architecture at the Arab International University in Damascus and the Technical University in Berlin. He received his MA in Media Architecture from the Bauhaus University in Weimar and is currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute for Sustainable Urbanism at the Technical University, Braunschweig. His work focuses on developing and implementing digital tools to decode urban and built environments.

François Nour

Francois Nour graduated from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts and pursued a MA in self-sufficient architecture at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona. Interested in waterrelated topics at different scales (domestic, urban, etc.), he developed his thesis about an alternative water strategy for Greater Beirut following years of crisis in a relatively water-rich country. Back in Lebanon in 2019, he became an active member of the successful Save the Bisri Valley campaign, against the large dam project planned there. He promotes his alternative vision and works on its implementation via programs such as the MIT Lebanon Challenge and the Water Innovation Lab Lebanon. He has also collaborated with local recycling companies and NGOs (Cedar Environmental, Regenerate Lebanon) to develop awareness projects and data sharing platforms.

Dena Qaddumi

Dena Qaddumi is Fellow in City Design and Social Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research spans architectural and urban studies and draws on postcolonial urban theory, political geography, and cultural studies. Qaddumi completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge where she examined the materialization of revolution in Tunis and was a Gates Cambridge Scholar. She has worked in architecture, urban planning, and higher education in New York, London, Palestine, and Doha.

Hareth Ramzi

Hareth Ramzi is a visual artist and photographer based in Amman, Jordan. His body of work includes landscape, travel, street, and architecture photography. He uses photography primarily as a means to capture an awareness of impermanence, looking for beauty in the seams, in the natural, the material, the nostalgic, and the imperfect. Ramzi’s work has been exhibited at Darat al Funun, and Orient Gallery in Amman, and his photographs have been featured in 7iber, Forbes, designboom, Interior Design, and other publications.

Mahdi Sabbagh

Mahdi Sabbagh is a practicing architect, urbanist, and editor. He is a PhD student at Columbia University and holds a Masters in Architecture from Yale. Sabbagh is part of Palfest, the Palestine Festival of Literature. In 2019, he curated the festival Urban Futures: Colonial Space Today. Mahdi was co-editor of Perspecta 50: Urban Divides (MIT Press, 2017), and his work has been published in Open Gaza (AUC Press, 2021), Arab Urbanism, the Journal of Public Culture, Jerusalem Quarterly, the Funambulist, and Jadaliyya.

Hanadi Samhan

Hanadi Samhan is an urban practitioner and a PhD candidate at The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at the University College London. She has an extensive experience in urban development projects in the MENA region. Throughout her career, Samhan succeeded in leading and delivering urban planning schemes and design solutions for clients in both the private and public sectors. She was in charge of strategic planning and design projects for key cities such as Riyadh, Baghdad, and Makkah. She also led national development and design guidelines for the state of Qatar and the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities. She provided advice for housing development schemes and peer review assessments for large-scale master plans and new developments. Samhan’s research investigates Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon through their volumetric dimension. She aims to bring together the new language of volumetric and voluminous concepts of sovereignty with refugeehood, thereby challenging the flatness of camp thinking as a bounded territory, and as a distinctive geopolitical urban space.

Faysal Tabbarah

Faysal Tabbarah is the Associate Dean and an Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah. He is also Co-founder of Architecture + Other Things, an architecture and design studio based in Sharjah. Tabbarah’s teaching and research interrogate the potential of activating Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) material and environmental practices to drive innovative contemporary design and building solutions by exploring context-driven modes of production, alternative material systems, and the relationship between environmental and architectural imaginaries. At AUS, Tabbarah teaches core and option design studios, seminars integrate issues of Orientalism and the built and natural environments, computational design seminars, and required structures courses.

Mahmud Tantoush

Mahmud Tantoush is a Lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture and a researcher with the Complexity, Planning and Urbanism Lab (CPU- Lab) at Manchester Met University. He began researching how urban space, urban change, and the spatial history of Tripoli are shaped by different political/ideological periods through a methodology combining GIS tools and archival material during his Master’s degree research. His current research interests revolve around analysing and linking Urban Dig Data and urban form to better understand how cities are experienced and used across different spatial and temporal scales. Other research interests include smart cities; crowdsourced urban data; geographic data science; urban morphology; and complexity theories.

Ines Tazi

Ines Tazi is an architect from Casablanca based in London. She graduated from the Architectural Association in 2019 and is currently practicing in an architectural studio in London, while pursuing a masters in Gender Studies focused in the Global South and courses on diasporas in the Contemporary World at SOAS. Her personal projects explore the politics of space and migration in correlation with body, gender, and cultural norms, combining research, writing, photography, and architectural design. Tazi's work was featured in Architecture of the Territory, an exhibition curated and organized by Collective for Architecture Lebanon in the context of OMRAN 2019.

Noor Toshani

Noor Toshani is an International Studies and Diplomacy MA graduate from SOAS. Her academic research is centered on the Libyan political transition with a historical grounding in state and societal structures. Her other research interests include the role of women, art, and culture in Libya’s political transition.

Ben Tosland

Ben Tosland is an architectural historian from London working in heritage and currently teaching at NYU London. His past work includes his PhD which studied European architects working in the Arabian Gulf. He has published work on Max Lock’s plans in southern Iraq in both Planning Perspectives and the Histories of Post- War Architecture. Tosland’s forthcoming monograph on the Architects John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood is to be published by Birkhauser in 2023.

Pieter Van den Broeck

Pieter Van den Broeck is a professor of spatial planning and sustainable development in the Department of Architecture at KU Leuven. He has over 25 years of experience in the field of spatial development analysis and planning, mixing both research and practice. From a critical institutionalist perspective and a methodological interest in transdisciplinary action research, Pieter engages in research on spatial planning, territorial development and social innovation, governance of socioecological systems, and land dynamics and commons. He is a coordinator of the research unit Planning and Development and the Network for European Spatial Planning and Development (ESDP).

Inass Yassin

Inass Yassin is a studio artist and exhibition curator. She is a Fulbright MFA graduate obtaining her degree from Maine College of Art (2019), and a MA from the University of Southampton (2009). Her multimedia artistic practice tackles urban and social transformations in Palestine since the late 1980s. Yassin has worked in a number of cultural institutions, and served as director of the Birzeit University Museum between 2010–2017.

Technical Details

Publication Date:
Saturday, January 28, 2023
16.5 x 23.5 cm
Number of Pages:
Kaph Books

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