Search results for "Eero Saarinen"

Saarinen Revived

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Sitting Smartly
Example of Saarinen's furniture design for Knoll.
Courtesy Pointed Leaf Press

Eero Saarinen:
Furniture for Everyman

Brian Lutz
Pointed Leaf Press, $85.00

This past September marked the 51st anniversary of Eero Saarinen’s premature passing. As a reminder of the achievements made during his abbreviated career, Brian Lutz’s forthcoming title Eero Saarinen: Furniture for Everyman by Pointed Leaf Press offers new insights into his contributions to industrial design.

The profusely illustrated volume generously uses candid stills, press imagery, patent sketches, and rich examples of Herbert Matter-designed advertisements from Knoll’s archives to accompany Saarinen’s career-long trajectory in furniture. The author begins with Saarinen as a pre-teen designing his parents’ bedroom furnishings at the Cranbrook Academy and carries through to his mature designs, some of the most iconic pieces in modern American furniture.

First hand accounts from Florence Schust Knoll, close contemporary and former Saarinen crush, along with Niels Diffrient, a model-maker for Saarinen, Saarinen and Associates, offer personal insight into working with the master. They recall a genius not so encumbered by patents and copyrights but, most importantly, ignited by the excitement of what new idea might be on the horizon, and finding new means of realizing modernist principles. Their personal accounts recall lifetime challenges, like the designer’s approach to chair design as akin to scientific research.

 
 

Each new finding seemingly brought further questions for Saarinen. Facile at drawing in “mechanical or illustrative” forms, he often tinkered in the various allied studios at Cranbrook alongside the seasoned craftsmen, and worked with them to find the proper means of lamination for just the right curvature or a stronger means of attachment for a support. As his designs grew more complex, so did the search for the latest technology, which only enhanced complication in production. This investigation would drive him from traditional furniture makers to Haskelite Plymold, (then being used in aircraft fuselage, wing, and tail construction), and on to techniques used by the Navy for ship hull construction to help realize his visions.

Constantly working between disciplines, Saarinen’s architecture informed his furniture, and both borrowed liberally from the manufacturing trades. A famous first of Saarinen’s architecture in later years was his reappropriation of the neoprene gaskets General Motors was using to hold their windshields in place for the curtain wall detailing in their Technical Center Headquarters which Saarinen designed in 1956. Similarly, Lutz explains how, in the 1940s, he borrowed from the car industry by applying Chrysler’s Cyclebond technology of holding rubber to break drums in an attempt to adhere leg supports to his thin-shelled chairs.


 
 

Once issues of process and technology were finally resolved, the interference of World War II brought additional hardships. Despite winning two first-prize awards for their Organic Design submissions to Elliott Noyes’ 1941 MoMA exhibition, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen faced material shortages and wartime manufacturing issues that stifled production. Saarinen’s concerns quickly shifted from whether his designs appeared like “a piece of plumbing or anatomy or something” to how he would realize his concept of efficient living without a means of production. While these designs met Saarinen’s goals of being purpose-built, dependable, and un-self-conscious, the failure of having these standardized pieces mass-produced inspired Saarinen’s next creation.

In response to its time, the Grasshopper Chair—once, a mainstay of Knoll, but quickly eclipsed by his own signature Womb Chair—was defined by its efficiency and support, accommodating the “modern sitter” into an “organized slouch” position. In response to shortages, the material-conscious design called for a cradle assembly of laminated wood and, originally, surplus parachute webbing.

Saarinen was keenly aware of human behavioral tendencies. The same considerations that scaled his furniture at the Crow Island School of Winnetka, Illinois to its elementary-school aged constituents shaped his adult furniture lines for Knoll. Saarinen spoke of a “cup-like shell into which you can curl up and pull up your legs, something women especially like to do” long before ergonomics entered the lexicon as a term.

Whereas today’s NERB modeling and multi-axis milling machines can quickly turn similar styles into digital and tactile realities, Saarinen’s forms were realized via repeated trial and error. The prototypes of simple paper, wood dowels, moist clay, and plaster with burlap, caustic resins, thin veneers, and fiberglass veils informed the design and his concepts pushed the material realities of production, thus earning him superlatives like the first use of plastic in a commercially molded chair.

Lutz goes into great detail about how Saarinen’s pieces were not only symbols of modern life but how they became the epitome of corporate office furniture. Supported by Knoll’s planning department, and avant-garde marketing, Saarinen’s furniture was successfully mass produced, and became ubiquitous. With the laborious means of creation and invention described by the author, these iconic pieces are to be appreciated that much more, and the reader finds agreement with Saarinen’s own words that “today, more than ever before, we need to relax.”

Company Man

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Routine Innovation

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NOW BOARDING: DESTINATION, JFK

Destination Unknown

Eero Saarinen's last work, the TWA Terminal at JFK, will soon enjoy a second, temporary life as a Kunsthalle. And after thattwho knows? As Cathy Lang Ho reports, the future of the modernist masterpiece is as open as the sky.
Photography by Dean Kaufman.

 

Long before Santiago Calatrava unveiled his architectural allegory for flight that will become the downtown PATH station, Eero Saarinen gave New York City a symbol that captured the grace and excitement of the jet age by mimicking the shape of a soaring bird. Since its completion in 1962, the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport has served as an icon of both modern air travel and modern design. But its daring gull-winged constructionna reinforced concrete sculpture that tested the limits of its material and of what modernism could beewas the source of its distinction as well as downfall. The building's stand-alone, sinewy form made it difficult to adapt it to the rapidly modernizing airline industry. Larger airplanes, increased passenger flow and automobile traffic, computerized ticketing, handicapped accessibility, and security screening are just a few of the challenges that Terminal 5 (as it's officially known) could not meet without serious alteration. When the terminal closed in 2001 (in the wake of TWA's demise in 1999), no other airline stepped up to take over the space.

 

 

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) did, however, receive dozens of expressions of interest from sources ranging from the Finnish government to the Municipal Art Society to the Partnership for New York City. We expected to hear from preservationists, cultural organizations, and business people, but what surprised us was the number of requests we got from the general publiccregular people, travelersswho are just deeply interested in this building,, said Ralph Tragale, manager of government and community relations for the Port Authority. One of the requests came from Rachel K. Ward, an independent curator who worked previously with the theme of tourism and the cross influences of global travel and global art in an exhibition in Switzerland. Her particular interest in tourist sites and destinations was the basis of an idea to stage a series of installations that respond to and are situated within the arch-symbol of commercial travel itself. The result, Terminal 5, presents site-specific works by 18 artists, as well as a series of lectures, events, and additional temporary installations (see sidebar), on view from October 1 to January 31. The building is such a potent symbol, representing so many thingssair travel, the 1960s, transitions, globalism,, said Ward. Each artist had a unique response.. First lady of text messaging Jenny Holzer has, naturally, staked out the arrivals and departures board, while Ryoji Ikeda has created a series of light and sound installations for one of the tunnels. In mid-September, Vanessa Beecroft filmed a live performance piece in the terminallher first since 20011 which will be screened in the space. Toland Grinnell, known for his penchant for luggage, will make use of the baggage claim area. What's exciting to me is that the artists are using the building's forms to create works that will only exist in this space,, said Ward. Organizers are trying to arrange a shuttle service from Manhattan, and encourage the use of the new AirTrain.

Ward's timing was an important reason why the PA accepted her proposal. The exhibition's run precedes a long period of construction that will not end until 2008. The exhibition is a great opportunity to let the public enjoy the space,, said Tragale, and to show other potential uses for it.. Plans for Terminal 5's future have been contentious, with a battle played out publicly last year between the PA and preservationists who objected to a new terminal design concept that would have engulfed the landmark. Critics blasted the inital plan's intent to cut off Terminal 5's views of the runway, which motivated the design's floor-to-ceiling windows. They also objected to the idea that it would no longer be used as a functioning terminal. At that time, Kent Barwick, the president of the Municipal Art Society, said, By eliminating use of the terminal, you're condemning the building to a slow death.. Even Philip Johnson, who knew Saarinen, weighed in, telling The Los Angeles Times earlier this year, This building represents a new idea in 20th-century architecture, and yet we are willing to strangle it by enclosing it within another building. If you're going to strangle a building to death, you may as well tear it down..

In October 2003 Jet Blue entered an agreement with the PA to expand its presence at JFK. The upstart domestic airlineethe busiest at JFK, accounting for 7 million of the airport's 30 million passengers yearlyy was initially interested in the possibility of actively using the Saarinen structure but found that the cost to retrofit the relic exceeded that of building an entirely new terminal. Jet Blue commissioned Gensler and Associates to design a new terminal adjacent to Terminal 5, which, though still in concept phase, was released last month. The $850 million, 625,000-square-foot terminal is much smaller and more respectful of its site than the initial concept that so riled preservationists last year. The sheer reduction in size makes it better, but we're still concerned about the terminal being an active space,, said Theodore Prudon, president of DOCOMOMO-US. If it becomes just a left-over space, it's a disservice to the building. Also, it's more vulnerable if it's economically unviable.. Terminal 5 will be used, but the question is how intensely,, said Bill Hooper, senior principal in charge of the project at Gensler. We're still in design development now, trying to figure out how to make as much of the original terminal work.. Gensler's design begins with the renovation of the two tunnels that extend from the terminal to connect to waiting airplanes, known as Flight Wing Tube #1, which was part of Saarinen's original design, and Flight Wing Tube #2, which was designed in the late 1960s by Roche Dinkeloo to support 747s that did not exist when the terminal was first built. A new plaza will occupy the space between the two terminals, allowing visitors a view, until now unseen, toward Terminal 5's backside.

 
   

Beyer Blinder Belle will oversee the structure's restoration to its 1962 state. The process will involve undoing four decades' worth of alterations and additions, such as new baggage rooms and a sun canopy that was attached to the faaade. For its part, Jet Blue has expressed its desire to integrate the Saarinen building into its corporate image. As a result, Gensler's design is low profile, which reflects both its placement behind Terminal 5 and the way Jet Blue does business,, said Hooper. Jet Blue has also made the Terminal 5 exhibition possible, signing on as a major sponsor. After the exhibition closes, the PA will issue an RFP for the structure's adaptive reuse. We've heard ideas for a museum, a restaurant, a conference center,, said Tragale. We're open to what the business community has to offer..
Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at AN.

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Meet Connie

A vintage airplane will become a cocktail lounge at the TWA Hotel
Last week, “Connie,” a meticulously restored 1958 Lockheed L-1649A Constellation Starliner, was trucked over 300 miles from an airport in Auburn, Maine to New York City, where it will serve as a cocktail lounge for John F. Kennedy International Airport’s new TWA Hotel. After purchasing the dilapidated airliner earlier this year, the hotel’s developer, MCR Development, partnered with Atlantic Models and Gogo Aviation to return it to its original condition. The transformation, which included refurbishing the 116-foot-long fuselage, replacing the missing nose cone, repairing the damaged wings and tail, as well as outfitting the cockpit with authentic controls, was completed in just six months. The L-1649A Constellation was designed for Trans World Airlines in 1956 by renowned aeronautical engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. Although it was soon surpassed in speed and carrying capacity by the Boeing 707, its sleek shape and signature triple tail stabilizers made it an enduring symbol of 20th-century aviation. Today, Connie is one of only four L-1649A Starliners remaining in the world. “Our Connie started her illustrious TWA career at Idlewild (now JFK) in 1958,” said Tyler Morse, CEO and managing partner of MCR. “She was replaced by jets in 1960 and survived working as an Alaskan bush plane in the 1970s, only to be abandoned by drug runners in Honduras in the 1980s. We’re excited for her return to JFK as the Queen of Queens.” The airliner is the latest piece of Jet Age memorabilia to be added to the 1960s-themed TWA Hotel, a two-wing expansion of Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Flight Center. In addition to the passenger-plane-turned-night-spot, the hotel complex will feature an aviation museum and flight observation deck, as well as 512 guest rooms decorated with mid-century modern furnishings, vintage rotary phones, and Hollywood-style amenities. The TWA Hotel was designed by New York’s own Lubrano Ciavarra Architects, and is set to open in early 2019.
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KEEPING IT MODERN 2018

Getty Foundation awards preservation grants to modernist buildings around the world
The Getty Foundation has announced the 11 recipients of this year’s Keeping It Modern grants, an architectural conservation initiative that aims to preserve significant works of 20th-century modernism. The Foundation awarded more than $1.7 million in funding to the 2018 recipients. Among them are the first grants for buildings in Cuba, Lebanon, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ireland, as well as grants for iconic landmarks, such as Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, and Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. Since its 2014 launch, Keeping It Modern has awarded more than $7.75 million in grants to 54 projects of “outstanding architectural significance” around the globe. The funding focuses on supporting the development of long-term conservation management plans and policies, as well as studies in the maintenance, preservation, and energy efficient use of historic buildings. “As Keeping It Modern’s international network continues to grow, we have seen grantees increasingly identify themselves with the initiative and the principles it represents,” said Joan Weinstein, acting director of the Getty Foundation. “Chief among them is an emphasis on research and planning, values that have guided the Getty’s funding for decades. We believe that Keeping It Modern projects are setting a new standard.” The Getty Foundation also recently launched the Keeping It Modern Report Library, an online database of technical reports from 20 grant projects, which can be downloaded for free by anyone interested in cultural heritage preservation.
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A Meeting of Modern Minds

Exhibit Columbus National Symposium embraces progressive preservation
How do historic places live for now? This was one of many questions presented during the 2018 Exhibit Columbus National Symposium held in Columbus, Indiana, from September 26 through 29. Using many of Columbus’s High Midcentury Modern structures as venues, curators, architects, and creators explored how architecture, art, and design can be used to make better places to live and inform new approaches to preservation that incorporate modern heritage and civic initiatives into the future of cities. A collaboration between Landmark Columbus, AIA Indiana, AIA Kentucky, Docomomo US, and Newfields, Exhibit Columbus kicked off with alternating programming, featuring a symposium one year and an exhibition the next. This year’s Exhibit Columbus National Symposium complements the 2019 Exhibit Columbus Exhibition, which invites artists and architects to create outdoor works that are inspired by and communicate with Columbus’s more than 80 structures, works of art, and landscapes designed by significant architects and artists, including Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Robert Venturi, Harry Weese, I.M. Pei, and Alexander Girard. Exhibit Columbus follows the original ethos of philanthropist and Cummins Corporation executive J. Irwin Miller, who saw the built environment as a means to create social change and saw a need for the revitalization of his hometown as it approached the mid-20th century. Establishing the Cummins Foundation in 1954, Miller offered to pay all architect fees for new public buildings in Columbus, which brought emerging architects to the small midwestern city to build schools, factories, offices, and houses of worship, and kickstarted the architectural radicalism that Columbus now defines itself by. The 2019 exhibition will bring 18 projects to downtown Columbus, including five J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Installations, five Washington Street Installations, six University Design Research Fellowships, and the design team from Columbus High School’s C4 program. The symposium’s intent was to activate multiple aspects of the afterlife of historic places, giving the exhibition a collaborative, thoughtful context. While the bulk of the content related to Columbus’s High Midcentury Modernism, the conversations explored other sites and projects where progressive preservation has been implemented. The Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research's recently-acquired Usonian Smith House, and #NEWPALMYRA, an effort to reconstruct the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra as a virtual environment, were both part of separate discussions on interpretation and connection. The sense of progressive preservation at Exhibit Columbus was refreshingly unburdened by the lack of old-school historic preservation and architectural history thought chains, and discussion instead focused on innovation, creativity, and participation over historical facts delivered by academics. This was clearest in the presenters' choice of language; the overwhelming use of "cultural heritage" over "historic preservation" during sessions brought the field in America one tiny step closer to the cultural, community-centric model practiced in Europe. Discussions on sustainability looked at the role that historic architecture and design might play in making cities more equitable, not as the central pillar of the well-worn idea that the greenest thing is what’s already built, or the notion that a community can only venerate one period and thesis of historical significance. The most vital discussions occurred around exhibitions as civic action, and how historic sites might break out of their stasis and engage future creators and users of design, culminating with the introduction of the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Recipients, an exciting collection of firms tasked with creating the site-responsive installations that will mingle with Columbus’s existing heritage, a vision of the creative future of Columbus that could work anywhere.
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Rest In Peace

Robert Venturi, pioneer of Postmodernism, passes away
The family of Pritzker-prize winner and giant of contemporary architecture Robert Venturi has reported to AN that Venturi has passed away at the age of 93. Venturi was a pioneering author of books on architectural theory (especially Learning from Las Vegas and his introduction to the history of Rome) and, along with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown, founded Venturi Scott Brown Associates—later renamed VSBA. Together they have been credited with ushering in the Postmodern period in architecture. The firm would go on to design a number of important postmodern buildings, many of which are currently under threat, though Venturi himself retired from VSBA in 2016. Venturi accrued a number of architecture’s highest honors during his life and worked with Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn during his early career. Besides his Pritzker win in 1991, Venturi was an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a Rome Prize Fellowship winner, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. AN will follow this announcement up with a more complete obituary and remembrances from friends and colleagues in the coming days. Venturi's family requests that their privacy be respected at this time. See the following statement from Venturi's family on his passing: "Last night, Robert Venturi passed away peacefully at home after a brief illness.  He’s been surrounded by his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown and his son, Jim Venturi.  He was 93.
The family is planning to have a memorial service to celebrate Venturi’s life and this will be announced in the coming weeks."
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Experience modernism in the heartland during the 2018 National Symposium in Columbus, Indiana
The 2018 National Symposium, Design, Community, and Progressive Preservation, takes place September 26–29 in Columbus, Indiana. This year’s symposium is produced by Docomomo US and Exhibit Columbus, in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects Indiana and Kentucky Chapters and the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. Experience newly created tours that will take you behind the scenes and set the stage for how Columbus secured its place as an architectural mecca and earned the nickname the “Athens of the Prairie.” Join enthusiasts, architects, and preservationists alike for a four-day experience unlike any other, including engaging conversations with more than 40 visionary leaders in architecture, art, design, and community, and special programs like the kick-off events in the newly reinstalled Design Gallery at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and a screening of the documentary Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future plus a question and answer session with Eero Saarinen’s son, Eric Saarinen, and much more. Register for the 2018 National Symposium by September 19 and book your travel to Columbus today!
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Pilkington Spacia™ transforms “Bird Cage” staircase from replacement project to restoration project

The Milwaukee County War Memorial is the only building designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen in all of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The War Memorial houses the “Bird Cage,” a double cantilevered staircase surrounded by a glass and steel curtain wall. Because it had been decades since any updates had been made, there was a point in which replacing the curtain wall entirely was a consideration. Due to the history of the building, it was imperative that restoration options be explored.

Pilkington Spacia™ vacuum insulated glazing opened up the opportunity for the historic staircase to be restored instead of replaced. Pilkington Spacia™ combines the thin profile of historic monolithic glass with the thermal efficiency of a thicker and heavier modern insulated glass unit. Additionally, it helps to reduce condensation and ice formation, key considerations for glass in Milwaukee.

Once the project was underway, all pieces were cut to custom sizes and installed without having to remove and replace the famous curtain wall. It now looks fresh while maintaining the historic look and integrity of the time period.

For more information on the project check out the video:

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31 Days of Architecture

Archtober is almost here! Check out the Building of the Day schedule
It’s nearly the most architectural time of the year! Archtober, New York City’s annual architecture and design month organized by the Center for Architecture, is just around the corner, believe it or not, and the lineup of archi-activities this season is not to be missed. Now in its eighth year, Archtober will celebrate the influence of the design industry through exhibitions, films, lectures, conferences, and the architect-led Building of the Day tours, which grant visitors unique access to the city’s coolest projects The first site this year is One John Street by Alloy, a new 130,000-square-foot residential property on the DUMBO waterfront. Perched next to the Manhattan Bridge, the 12-story building boasts unmatched views. You won’t want to miss your chance to get inside one of these apartments. You can also peruse the freshly-renovated TWA Hotel, or check out the brand new WeWork space inside S9 Architecture’s Dock 72 (the current talk of the town). You can also revel in the engineering feat that is The Shed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group. Sales for all tours begin today. You can purchase tickets via the Archtober website. Here is the complete schedule of sites to see: Oct. 1 One John Street Architect: Alloy Oct. 2 Lenox Hill Health Greenwich Village Original Architect: Albert Ledner; Renovation Architect: Perkins Eastman Oct. 3 Domino Park Architect: James Corner Field Operations Oct. 4 Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant Architect: Polshek Partnership/Ennead Oct. 5 Swiss Institute Architect: Selldorf Architects Oct. 6 TWA Hotel Original Architect: Eero Saarinen; Renovation Architects: Beyer Blinder Belle, Lubrano Ciavarra Architect Oct. 7 BSE Global Architect: TPG Architecture Oct. 8 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library Architect: Marble Fairbanks Oct. 9 Five Manhattan West Architect: REX Oct. 10 Bronx River Arts Center Architect: Sage and Coombe Architects Oct. 11 277 Fifth Avenue Architect: Rafael Viñoly Architects Oct. 12 The Marcel Breuer Buildings at Bronx Community College Architect: Marcel Breuer Oct. 15 Hayes Theater Architect: Rockwell Group Oct. 16 R & Company Architect: wHY Architecture Oct. 17 Dock 72 Architect: S9 Architecture Oct. 18 Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse Architect: Architecture Research Office (ARO) Oct. 19 Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Shelby White and Leon Levy Water Garden and Water Conservation Project Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. Oct. 20 100 East 53rd Street Architect: Foster + Partners Oct. 21 Kew Gardens Hills Library Architect: WORKac Oct. 22 Spyscape Museum Architect: Adjaye Associates Oct. 23 Manhattanville Campus Plan: Jerome L. Green Science Center (Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute) and The University Forum Design Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop Executive Architect: Davis Brody Bond LLP (Jerome L. Green Science Center) Design Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop Executive Architect: Dattner Architects (The Forum) Oct. 24 325 Kent Avenue Architect: SHoP Oct. 25 Sculpture Studio Architect: Andrew Berman Architect Oct. 26 The Shed Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group Oct. 26 Alice Austen House Original Architect Unknown Oct. 28 Ocean Wonders: Sharks! Architecture, Exhibition Design, Landscape Architecture: Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects (Architect of Record), the Wildlife Conservation Society - Exhibition and Graphic Arts Department, and The Portico Group Oct. 29 African Burial Ground Monument Architects: Rodney Leon / AARRIS Architects Oct. 30 123 Melrose Architect: ODA New York Oct. 31 Hunters Point South Architect: WEISS/MANFREDI View all programming on Archtober.org.