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Яandwicked
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've been wondering about this for ages and have been meaning to start a thread on it.

It seems, as far as Google Earth is a reliable indicator of urban form in modern cities, that there are divides between cities in the North and South of Europe. Northern cities, especially in the British Isles and Scandinavia but also in much of Germany and northern France, are characterised by a higher of degree of detached (or semi-detached) housing, giving these cities a much more sprawling aspect than cities to the south, especially in Spain but also the other Mediterranean countries. Southern cities seem to be characterised by the dominance of multistory apartment dwelling even out to their suburban rims, and hence their urban areas are much more compact. I'll prevent some evidence and illustration via Google's imagery.

I've tried to compare urban areas with similar populations from the north and south. I've zoomed in on an area at random, but from the middle ring of that city's suburbs, not the core or newest areas as that's not what I'm interested in.

Let's start with Barcelona and Berlin, cities in the 3-4 million bracket (urban area pop.).



Next, Lisbon and Birmingham, with populations in the 2-2.5 million bracket.



Florence (Firenze) and Oslo both have around 800,000.



Now let us look at small cities in the 250,000 or less region. Pamplona and Southend-on-Sea:



The differences should be obvious, I hope. I'm interested in opinions why these cities have developed so differently, and continue to do so. People from Southern Europe, is the high degree of apartment living in your countries because of consumer demand, or government policy, or both? What about Northern Europeans? As well as the absence of detached dwellings in the Southern cities, it's worth noting the relative absence of green space compared to their northern counterparts (particularly in the larger examples). It appears to be not merely the number of apartment buildings in the southern cities, it's the smaller distance between them that makes those cities so compact. Where apartments exist in the northern cities they have big expanses of lawn between them.
 

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The Berlin example you've chosen is an interesting one. Berlin is one of those cities in Germany that experienced relatively small amounts of sprawl in comparison to others due to East German policy. Not only that, but you've chosen an area which actually has a large number of allotments in it rather than houses. These allotments are actually allocated gardens which people can rent/buy just like in Britain.

It's also very difficult to establish how many stories many of those apartments/houses are. In Germany if you look over Stuttgart you'd think there were mutitudes of detached houses, however, they're actually three/four story apartments, despite appearances from above. The best way to image such neighbourhoods is by Live Maps which offers a nice "birds eye" isometric view of the area, but unfortunately very few European cities have been added to it.

So, now that I've picked apart a bit of the methodology, I'll just go on to talk about what I think is the reason for it:

For a long time, the south of Europe was much less prosperous than the north, and therefore was less auto dependant due to the car being a luxury item. Things are changing fast now though with Spain in particular learning the true meaning of sprawl around quite a few of its cities.
 

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Your observation is right. Cities in european southern countries have more apartment buildings. Some reasons could be: high countryside second house ownership of southern country city dwellers, and more extensive streetlife (sitting on the street side, in communal apartment garden, in parks, at cafes) in southern countries makes a large house less needed.
 

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Яandwicked
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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
The Berlin example you've chosen is an interesting one. Berlin is one of those cities in Germany that experienced relatively small amounts of sprawl in comparison to others due to East German policy. Not only that, but you've chosen an area which actually has a large number of allotments in it rather than houses. These allotments are actually allocated gardens which people can rent/buy just like in Britain.
Thanks. I've been wondering about those gardens as well...allotments in the UK are typically just vegetable patches, whereas the German ones more often than not have permanent structures on them. Is it legal for people to dwell in these full time? Because with their cottages they resemble sururban sprawl. They're wedged in everywhere, often between railway lines or motorway interchanges.

It's also very difficult to establish how many stories many of those apartments/houses are. In Germany if you look over Stuttgart you'd think there were mutitudes of detached houses, however, they're actually three/four story apartments, despite appearances from above. The best way to image such neighbourhoods is by Live Maps which offers a nice "birds eye" isometric view of the area, but unfortunately very few European cities have been added to it.
Thanks, clarifications like this are appreciated as it's hard to picture life at street level from a top-down perspective. Sometimes you can tell just by the shadows cast how tall relatively a building is, but that Berlin shot is pretty crap. I think the buildings in a swathe down the middle are houses rather than walk-up apartments or allotments.

For a long time, the south of Europe was much less prosperous than the north, and therefore was less auto dependant due to the car being a luxury item. Things are changing fast now though with Spain in particular learning the true meaning of sprawl around quite a few of its cities.
Still, though, much new development around Madrid, for example, is whole neighbourhoods of apartments on greenfield sites.

Interesting also to note that there is a Europe-wide trend towards distance-hopping sprawl, with burbs springing up around outlying villages rather than homogenously around the central urban core. Are green belts in use in most cities?
 

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Mơמkƹ͛ƴ∆ґ&#4
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I think part of it is due to the climate. While southern Europe can be rather dry, the north has more lush vegetation which could influence the decision to generally have more gardens there.

Southern cities also tend to be older (easily the most important factor), and therefore have more densely packed apartments on unplanned, usually narrow street grids. Northern cities were more obviously planned to a greater degree, and the newer ages reflects the comparative abundance of green space, "commie blocks", and detached houses.

And southern European cities actually aren't denser, despite the more urban built form. Simply, the same density levels are achieved through different methods.
 

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Mơמkƹ͛ƴ∆ґ&#4
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And southern European cities actually aren't denser, despite the more urban built form. Simply, the same density levels are achieved through different methods.
Case in point: compare these aerials of Rome and Berlin.






I think we can all agree that the environment in the top picture is much more pleasant, but denser? I'd doubt that.


Also, take a look through these urban density stats: http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-area-125.html

Looking at Western Europe, there isn't really much of a pattern with density and whether a city is north or south. However, southeastern Europe is home to some of the densest cities.
 

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^^ I'd say it's unfair to compare the commieblocks of Berlin with what is effectively the "altstadt" of Rome.

Perhaps it would be better to compare Charlottenburg or the region around Ku'Damm with it.

Besides, I'd say that the Berlin example looks fine for the built environment! Plenty of green space and parkland there whilst still maintaining a functional density. Urban design is purely subjective.

To answer your question Randwicked: Green belts exist around a lot of European cities. I know that both British and German cities have quite strictly enforced green belts.
 

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Ya, there is a general trend of lower-density development giving rise to higher-density as you move from Northern to Southern Europe, at least in Wester Europe. I have noticed that the cities of the British Isles and Scandinavia tend to have the most lower-density outside of their city-centers. When I say lower-density, I can only mean buildings/structures, as in the space they occupy horizontally on the ground. I don't know enough to translate that into population density and it's not always certain to me how many stories are involved. But I would imagine that building/structure density and population density are usually related in this situation.

Many British cities have rowhouses with long, narrow private gardens. These rowhouses may be 2 or 3 stories but it's my understanding that they are quite narrow so all 2 or 3 stories is for one family = one house. They may choose to rent out rooms, especially in rowhouses near the center, but they are still one house. When you see these rowhouses on aerials, you notice a lot of green space from the gardens. I've noticed that Dutch and Belgian cities to a lower extent have this type of housing (rowhouses or similar concept with private gardens).

France is a very transitional country where its many neighboring countries have had an influence on their architecture and urban layout. Border or near-border cities + their metro areas like Lille, Strasbourg, Nice and Toulouse and even Montpellier are great examples. Lille looks a lot like a Northern city with houses lined up in rows very similar to rowhouses, and each also has a long, narrow, private garden. Each house is 2 or 3 stories high, as well, but very narrow, just like in the British Isles and parts of Belgium and the Netherlands. Paris suburbs are a combination of big apartment structures (some of which look like commieblocks), mixed with detached, single-family houses and also many duplexes. What many may not know is that Paris has many, many neighborhoods made up of detached or duplexed single-family houses, all with gardens, some bigger and smaller than others. As you move south in France cities tend to become more compact like Spanish and Italian cities but I usually still see many detached homes in the suburbs, especially near the Med where you have villas. But overall, the cities are more dense and there seems to be less green spaces.

Yes, it does seem that Spanish and Italian and from what I've seen in Athens tends to be more compact, apartment dwellings and fewer detached or rowhouses and you see less green space and parks YET the distances to getting out of the urbanized areas are much shorter. Even in Madrid (a big city) it doesn't take much to be out in the countryside/mountains by train or car.

Maybe because of the tendancy to live closer to the center, Spanish cities tend to have higher buildings than French cities and French cities have higher ones than British or Dutch ones. As for German cities, I see them as a general mix of British and French cities, although what usually stands out for me is that while some French cities have paved courtyards with maybe plants and only some flower beds, German cities have totally green courtyards, or atleast with more trees sticking out of their courtyards. Well, actually, this pertains much more when comparing Paris and Berlin. Both France and Germany are big countries for Europe so it's hard to compare so many cities between both. But generally, German cities are greener looking and more spacious.
 

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Here are some birdseye views of some French cities. I copied this from a thread I opened in the UK forums to show how Lille, France almost looks British/Dutch, and to show this, I showed some other French cities to show the difference. Some of these birdseye views will support what I just said above.

Lyon
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=rmsz91hd2m39&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=11048234&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=rmts86hd3f8c&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=11030310&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1


Toulouse
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=r80hy8h3mt3h&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=11032206&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=r813vkh3mtd9&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=11031704&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1


Nice
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=r8hx32hm5541&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=10995121&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=r8gzvyhm4xsj&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=11004032&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1


*********************************************************
Ok, now this is Lille, near the Belgian border and very near the English channel, too. Some of these may be of the Greater Lille area.

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf0w46h7n61g&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26244428&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf5y9bh7qhth&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26227179&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf7d2xh7pzmf&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26226909&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1


http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf4z1kh7ncz4&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26242053&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1


Even in the City Centre, Lille seems quite British. In fact, in the City Centre it looks more British than Dutch to me. Here in this central area, Lille looks more like London than Paris!
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf4vzsh7nt85&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26242137&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

Here it takes on a more Dutch look, maybe.
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf5kxxh7ntxp&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26226822&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf4fjsh7pb5x&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26242552&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=sf9tnsh7vb27&style=o&lvl=1&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=26225883&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1
 

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^^ I don't really agree about France, the pictures you took are misleading because you compare city centers of southern cities (and Lyon) with residential areas.

Rennes for example, a north-west city, is a very compact city and much denser than most of those you will find in the south.

You can also find some cities that look as dense as southern ones in the northern half of the country.

Here is Nancy for example:

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...&scene=26244428&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

While you can find sprawl areas not far from the center of Toulouse:
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...xMTU2NDI5MzQyNTQzJTdlNi4xNzI2MTkwNTUwOTQzOQ==
 

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Well most cities of France tend to be spread because France don't have the lacks of espace like many European country.
If you look the density of Toulouse, Lyon, Lille urban areas, you will see that these are some of least dense in Europe.

In an other way edubejar is right, french cities are very influenced by the neighboring countries.
The situation is more in the old center than in the modern suburbs.
(even if Lille modern architecture is closer of Amsterdam than Paris.)

Eklips you can't denied that Toulouse center is denser than every centers in Central, Northern, Eastern or Western France exepted Paris.
Toulouse spread a lot because it is the fastest growing metropolitan area of over 1 million inhabitants in Europe.

Rennes has always big part its medieval center. (even with it, Renne center is less dense than Toulouse one)
We could also add that Rennes has a green belt like London.
So the center tend to be small and compact then the metropolitan area formed by many little towns around is very wide.
Rennes is also one of fast growing urban area of France but unlike Toulouse it chose the idea of the densification instead of sprawl.

In reality the weirdest case in France is Paris, located in Northern France it has the densest center of France and compared at its size it spread less than any big French cities
Paris is the densest urban area of France.
 

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The Berlin example you've chosen is an interesting one. Berlin is one of those cities in Germany that experienced relatively small amounts of sprawl in comparison to others due to East German policy. Not only that, but you've chosen an area which actually has a large number of allotments in it rather than houses. These allotments are actually allocated gardens which people can rent/buy just like in Britain.

It's also very difficult to establish how many stories many of those apartments/houses are. In Germany if you look over Stuttgart you'd think there were mutitudes of detached houses, however, they're actually three/four story apartments, despite appearances from above. The best way to image such neighbourhoods is by Live Maps which offers a nice "birds eye" isometric view of the area, but unfortunately very few European cities have been added to it.

So, now that I've picked apart a bit of the methodology, I'll just go on to talk about what I think is the reason for it:

For a long time, the south of Europe was much less prosperous than the north, and therefore was less auto dependant due to the car being a luxury item. Things are changing fast now though with Spain in particular learning the true meaning of sprawl around quite a few of its cities.
is the the sprawl in Spain as bad as in US,Canada,AU, SA, and NZ?
 

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^^ I don't really agree about France, the pictures you took are misleading because you compare city centers of southern cities (and Lyon) with residential areas.

Rennes for example, a north-west city, is a very compact city and much denser than most of those you will find in the south.

You can also find some cities that look as dense as southern ones in the northern half of the country.

Here is Nancy for example:

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...&scene=26244428&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1

While you can find sprawl areas not far from the center of Toulouse:
http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v...xMTU2NDI5MzQyNTQzJTdlNi4xNzI2MTkwNTUwOTQzOQ==
I did not take those pictures...they are from Virtual Earth :crazy:

Also, those links are not opening Nancy and Toulouse. They open Lille and Orléans for me. Can you check them on your computer? Just do an edit.

Well, those links I placed on French cities were originally meant for the UK forum to show how Lille + metro area is the most British-looking place in France IMO due to their rowhouses with gardens. The Greater Lille area is the only northern city I showed, and it includes birds eye views of both central and suburban/residential locations. And on my previous post just above, I did say:

"As you move south in France cities tend to become more compact like Spanish and Italian cities but I usually still see many detached homes in the suburbs, especially near the Med where you have villas. But overall, the cities are more dense and there seems to be less green spaces."

Maybe it's just the "Viejo Casco" (vieux quartier)-look of the city centers of some southern French cities that reminds me a lot of Spanish cities, and Italian ones, too. Also, their "teja" roofs seem very Spanish/Italian to me too. But it's hard to compare, I know, because Italian and Spanish cities also vary and I'm sure Spaniards and Italians don't want their cities all grouped together. Alpine Italian cities look different to Tuscan, to those in Central Italy and especially to those in Southern Italy. Same for Spain and many other countries.
 

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^^ France is the largest country in western europe and it is well conected at other big european countries, that's explain many big difference between the cities.
 

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is the the sprawl in Spain as bad as in US,Canada,AU, SA, and NZ?
I would say the sprawl in Spain is different to the sprawl in above countries. Spanish sprawl mostly consists of these multi-appartment houses.

For me it was seeing Granada ten years after my first visit to the city that I realized, Spain had experienced enormous sprawl the last years. It seemed the city had doubled in size. It was quite a shock driving by blocks of new appartment buildings not existing before.

On of the reasons for the dominance of appartment buildings in Spain is that renting is not widespread. Most people buy property quite young and detached houses are expensive and easy to finance (salaries are not so high in comparison to northern europe).
Also it seems the preferred way of living, there are appartment buildings for all incomes.
 

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Gincan
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I would say the sprawl in Spain is different to the sprawl in above countries. Spanish sprawl mostly consists of these multi-appartment houses.

For me it was seeing Granada ten years after my first visit to the city that I realized, Spain had experienced enormous sprawl the last years. It seemed the city had doubled in size. It was quite a shock driving by blocks of new appartment buildings not existing before.

On of the reasons for the dominance of appartment buildings in Spain is that renting is not widespread. Most people buy property quite young and detached houses are expensive and easy to finance (salaries are not so high in comparison to northern europe).
Also it seems the preferred way of living, there are appartment buildings for all incomes.
The last ten years Spain has averaged 600.000 new apartments every year, check out Vitoria in northern Spain
for a city that has expanded in physical size by a factor of maybe 4 during the last 15 years.
 

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Between the cities I've examined closely on Google Earth, Paris seems to me the metro-area with the most detached houses in the suburbs. I know defining "suburbs" between various cities is not always the easiest, even within Europe. In the case of Paris, I mean all the urbanized area surrounding and excluding Paris. It's what they call la banlieu, both near and far banlieu. Other major European cities are bigger than Paris but have significantly smaller suburbs so its not always an easy comparison. Regardless, if you zoom in to Paris region you see houses after houses after houses after houses...most detached, some duplexed. Some in the near-banlieu are even attached to a non-residential building on one or both sides, but as you get further away there are SO MANY detached houses. Yet I get the impression most people imagine Paris suburbs being mainly big apartment buildings and commieblocks. These exist too in great numbers, but I think most of the land area is dedicated to detached houses, and this is north and east too (where you have the most low-income suburbs), not just south and west.

Maybe my eyes are lying but I see more detached houses in Paris than in Berlin and London looks largely dominated by rowhouses (I've also seen many detached homes there too, but the rowhouses seem very present). Madrid and Barcelona...forget it...those have very little detached houses. Rome has what looks like tightly spaced mansions near the center but I can't tell if they are mansions or very small apartment buildings.
 

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I did not take those pictures...they are from Virtual Earth :crazy:

Also, those links are not opening Nancy and Toulouse. They open Lille and Orléans for me. Can you check them on your computer? Just do an edit.

Well, those links I placed on French cities were originally meant for the UK forum to show how Lille + metro area is the most British-looking place in France IMO due to their rowhouses with gardens. The Greater Lille area is the only northern city I showed, and it includes birds eye views of both central and suburban/residential locations. And on my previous post just above, I did say:

"As you move south in France cities tend to become more compact like Spanish and Italian cities but I usually still see many detached homes in the suburbs, especially near the Med where you have villas. But overall, the cities are more dense and there seems to be less green spaces."

Maybe it's just the "Viejo Casco" (vieux quartier)-look of the city centers of some southern French cities that reminds me a lot of Spanish cities, and Italian ones, too. Also, their "teja" roofs seem very Spanish/Italian to me too. But it's hard to compare, I know, because Italian and Spanish cities also vary and I'm sure Spaniards and Italians don't want their cities all grouped together. Alpine Italian cities look different to Tuscan, to those in Central Italy and especially to those in Southern Italy. Same for Spain and many other countries.
Indeed I don't know what happened with those links I gave, too bad though, I don't have the motivation to go get the pictures again.

Anyways back to the topic clearly french cities, although they have their particularities in each cases, are generally quite similar to those in the most neighboring countries. Provence and Languedoc are famous for their roman tyles in architecture, while Picardie and the "far-north" are known for their use of red bricks like in the UK or the Netherlands.

However today in 2008 it doesn't necessarily translate into southern cities being denser.

I am not a historian, I don't know if 100 years ago and before, southern cities were denser, we have to be careful with aerial shots. It's clear that the closer you get to the med, the more old cities seem to be compact but we'd have to check if historically it would translate into higher densities (for example more people could have lived in the same spaces in the north). Plus it doesn't really take into account the vast urban differences within the south and within the north.

PS: I of course meant the pictures you took from live locals ;)
 

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Paris Transilien train heading to the suburbs

I find this Youtube video demonstrates a rather typical urban scape of the Paris region. Here a Transilien (Paris' other suburban system that compliments the RER) seems to be leaving from Saint-Lazare station heading out to the northwestern suburbs or around there. Notice how the super density of buildings in Paris city-proper give way to a mix of detached and semi-detached houses, then mainly detached houses. It's possible that the video didn't capture areas of the suburbs where big apartment buildings dominate, but maybe this line doesn't encounter them very much, like it would in the Northeast.

This is why Paris most reminds me of NYC, where you have a very dense Manhattan, followed by other boroughs with a mix of houses and apartments, followed by more exclusively detached-house neighborhoods further out.
 
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