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America’s natural beauty is far-reaching and unforgettable, from dramatic, rocky shores on each coast to vast plains, wetlands, mountain ranges, and dense forests. But some of the most wondrous U.S. landmarks are actually man-made — soaring suspension bridges, Art Deco-style skyscrapers, and even private homes that look plucked from a fairytale. These structures stand on their own as not only feats of engineering and architectural innovation, but as true works of art. Every state in America is home to many of these magnificent structures, however, these 50 are arguably the most photogenic.
Alabama: LightRails (Rainbow LED Tunnel)
The city of Birmingham, Alabama was once a booming industrial town, serving as a rail transportation hub and a steel manufacturing powerhouse in the early 20th century. Today, many remaining factories and production plants reminiscent of Birmingham’s industrialization, shut down decades ago, have been left to decay. But underneath the rail viaducts downtown, a part of the city’s cultural and architectural history has been given new life. The LightRails project, a series of rainbow-colored LED light installations, was designed in 2013 to illuminate the understated Art Deco columns and arches of the 14th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Street viaducts. The initiative not only honors an important (and beautiful) piece of the city’s past, but serves as a link to the downtown’s future, as the once-downtrodden tunnels are now filled with pedestrians, cyclists, and of course, Instagrammers.
Alaska: Museum of the North
It’s no small feat to design a building worthy of Alaska’s striking scenery, but the Museum of the North has achieved just that. The sleek structure, located on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, was designed by architect Joan Soranno. While some have posited that the building’s bold, swooping lines mimic breaching whales, Soranno simply aimed to honor the state’s sprawling landscape at large. The museum’s white walls blend seamlessly with the often wintry surroundings, and the interior is as impressive as the exterior, showcasing over 1.5 million objects that illustrate the area’s indigenous cultures, artworks, and other natural wonders.
Arizona: Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross located in Sedona, Arizona stands out for several reasons, not least of all because its sleek, minimalist design is unlike the ornate, Gothic Revival elements typically found in Catholic church architecture. The Roman Catholic church, completed in 1956, replicates the natural form and color of the surrounding red rock in the desert landscape, standing 250 feet on a butte, with a simple cross as its frame and the surrounding windows as its most notable feature. The interior is just as straightforward, with nothing but a few pews and an altar, letting the natural beauty outside the chapel be the primary focus.
Arkansas: Thorncrown Chapel
Nestled in the Ozark Mountains just outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas is not only the state’s most beautiful building, but one of the country’s most beloved architectural marvels. Thorncrown Chapel is a nondenominational chapel located in the thick of the forest. The symmetrical structure features 425 glass windows and wooden beams that allow it to blend in seamlessly with its natural surroundings. Designed by E. Fay Jones (an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright), the chapel has won numerous architectural awards since its 1980 completion, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in honor of its architectural significance only 20 years after it was built.
California: Golden Gate Bridge
If you visit San Francisco and forget to take a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, were you even really there? California teems with tourist attractions, but the bridge is undoubtedly one of the most famous landmarks. Spanning almost two miles across a narrow strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, the bridge’s unmistakable rusty-red color, stately towers, and swooping suspension cables make it one of the most photographed landmarks in the U.S. for good reason.
Colorado: United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel
The 17 geometrical spires that define the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel make it the most visited man-made tourist attraction in Colorado. The all-faith religious structure, made of aluminum, glass, and steel, is even more stunning on the inside. The 150-foot spires branch out into 100 tetrahedrons, all placed one foot apart and featuring floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows in between. The chapel has stood on the Air Force grounds since 1962, and has received several awards, including being named a National Historic Landmark in 2004.
Connecticut: River Building
As small a town as New Canaan, Connecticut may be, it happens to boast two of the country’s most beautiful architectural wonders. Not only does Philip Johnson’s Glass House stand in the town, but the newer star of the show, Grace Farms’ winding River Building, also attracts visitors to the area. Since October 2015, the multi-purpose building has twisted and turned its way unobtrusively through the sprawling landscape, aiming to blend in rather than draw attention to itself. It’s difficult, however, for the building — made of glass, concrete, wood, and steel — to go unnoticed, especially when the long, winding roof catches the sunlight just right, emulating the reflective surface of a river.
Delaware: Indian River Inlet Bridge
The Indian River Inlet Bridge — less commonly known by its official name, the Charles W. Cullen Bridge — is one of the most significant landmarks in the state, and not just because of its illuminated grandeur. The cable suspension bridge is the fifth bridge to stand over the river; previous iterations have not been able to withstand the rigor of the inlet’s mighty current. This newest version, however, has a predicted lifespan of about 100 years. It was a welcome sight for residents who consulted on its nighttime lights and pedestrian walkways, which offer amazing views of the Delaware Seashore State Park.
Florida: The Dalí
The Dalí, also known as the Salvador Dalí Museum, in St. Petersburg is a fittingly surrealist tribute to the Spanish artist, and a brilliant building worthy of the hundreds of thousands of eager, camera-toting tourists who flock to it annually. Besides boasting the largest collection of Dalí's work outside of Europe, the museum is also an architectural marvel featuring domed glasswork curves that jut out of the concrete on the exterior, giving way to the winding stairs leading to the airy, white indoor atrium.
Georgia: National Center for Civil and Human Rights
When architect Philip Freelon designed the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, he hoped the building’s bold, sweeping curves would represent two interlocking arms. Inspired by the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Tahrir Square in Cairo, Freelon also wanted the sloping interior walls to augment the gravity of the exhibits featured within. The building also features a sustainable green roof as well as a striking, glass-and-steel sculpture. Water cascades down the two 72-foot-tall leaning towers, which are etched with powerful quotes that define major human rights movements throughout American history.
Hawaii: USS Arizona Memorial
Although it’s a unique piece of architecture and one of Hawaii’s most visited tourist attractions, the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu is also one of the most somber landmarks in the U.S. The understated Alfred Preis-designed building floats like a bridge above the remains of the sunken ship, on which 1,102 crew members were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The details are as arresting and thoughtful as the site itself — the elongated, white building features seven large windows in reference to the December 7 date of the attack, and 21 windows in total symbolize a 21-gun salute of remembrance.
Idaho: Perrine Bridge
Perrine Bridge, located near the city of Twin Falls, Idaho, is a famous landmark in the state, spanning 1,500 feet long and standing almost 500 feet above the stunning Snake River Canyon. The recognizable truss arch bridge is more than just a photographer favorite — it’s also well-known for attracting BASE jumpers year-round, who parachute off the structure not only for athletic pursuit or an adrenaline rush, but to also take in the breathtaking views of the bridge and its surrounding natural beauty.
Illinois: Cloud Gate
Chicago is one of the most architecturally significant cities in the United States, and narrowing down the most photogenic structure is no small feat. When it comes to one of the most accessible (and photographed) landmarks in the city, the honor must go to the famous, silver “Bean” — or, as it is officially known, Cloud Gate. As one of many outstanding public art pieces in Millennium Park (including Frank Gehry’s winding BP Pedestrian Bridge and Pritzker Pavilion), the Sir Anish Kapoor-designed Bean is not only a marvel on its own, but captures the second-to-none skyline in its seamlessly polished, stainless steel surface.
Indiana: Century of Progress Homes
Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the best spots for taking in the state’s natural beauty, and it also happens to contain some of Indiana’s most intriguing architecture. Five historic houses, originally built for and displayed at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, were moved to a permanent location on the banks of Lake Michigan in Beverly Shores, Indiana. The homes were built to demonstrate the future of housing, showcasing a variety of designs and materials, and have managed to endure decades of changing styles to maintain a unique modern look. The pink Florida Tropical House, designed for Sunshine State living, is a particularly photogenic bright spot among the bunch.
Iowa: High Trestle Trail Bridge
Like many American architectural feats, the High Trestle Trail Bridge in Madrid, Iowa repurposes materials of the past into a thing of modern beauty. The bridge, which crosses the Des Moines River, was once part of the Union Pacific Railroad trail, and reopened in 2011 as part of a 25-mile recreational trail. Now, 41 geometric steel frames encircle the pathway along the bridge, creating a design similar to the view through a mine shaft and a nod to Iowa's coal mining history.
Kansas: The Keeper of the Plains
In downtown Wichita, a 44-foot-tall, steel sculpture stands where the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers join together. The spot is considered sacred Native American ground, and the monument, completed in 1974 by sculptor Francis (Blackbear) Bosin, depicts a Native American warrior holding his hands high as he offers a blessing to the Kansas sky. The powerful Keeper of the Plains monument was updated in 2006; now, the iconic statue stands on a 30-foot rock platform, and is surrounded by fire pits and sacred plants to the Native Americans, such as sage, medicinal herbs, and prairie grass.
Kentucky: Churchill Downs
You can barely say Kentucky without thinking of bourbon — or its famous Derby. The Bluegrass State is known for its annual horse race, and the racing grounds are just as iconic as the event itself. Churchill Downs has hosted the race since 1875, and for just as long, the twin spires that top the grandstands have been a beloved part of the track and the event. The pyramidal cones have been iconic in Kentucky since their completion in 1895, making the racing complex one of the most recognized landmarks in the state.
Louisiana: Old State Capitol
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol building is a neo-Gothic, medieval-style castle overlooking the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. In a state boasting numerous elegant Greek Revival and French colonial structures that’ll fill your phone’s photo album, the old Capitol — also referred to as the Louisiana Castle, the Castle of Baton Rouge, or the Castle on the River — stands out because of its truly breathtaking, stained-glass dome.
Maine: Portland Head Light
New England — and the state of Maine, especially — is known for its numerous lighthouses dotting the upper Eastern Seaboard, but one of the most beautiful seaside structures also happens to be the oldest in the state. Portland Head Light was originally built along the rocky banks of Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth in 1791, having been commissioned by none other than George Washington. With the spectacular surrounding shore and vast expanse of parkland, it’s impossible to take a bad photo of this architectural splendor.
Maryland: George Peabody Library
Known as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, the George Peabody Library, which is technically a John Hopkins University research facility, was referred to as a “Cathedral of Books” by its designers, Baltimore architect Edmund Lind and Peabody Institute provost Nathaniel Morison. Visitors to the library will be awestruck by the five tiers of cast-iron balconies that look out onto the stately, black-and-white marble floors, latticed skylight, gold-scalloped columns, and satisfying stacks of books.
Massachusetts: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Tucked away out of street view is the magical courtyard at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, one of the most beautiful spots in the city. The Venetian palazzo-inspired nook is brought to life by its year-round garden, which is primarily grown in the museum’s greenhouses and transported to the grounds by truck. The displays are rotated several times a year, and the seasonal blooms are as much a work of art as the significant collection housed inside.
Michigan: Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Detroit is known for its Art Deco-style buildings, but one of the crown jewels among the city’s lauded architectural portfolio is the glass-domed Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. The stunning glass greenhouse and botanical garden, located within the 1,000-acre Belle Isle Conservancy, feature exotic flora, ponds, fountains, and more. The glass greenhouse has been standing since 1904, and was designed by architect Albert Kahn, who is said to have modeled his design after Thomas Jefferson's Monticello home.
Minnesota: Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, is a modern art institution that is a work of art itself. Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, the building's fragmented-yet-fluid, stainless steel exterior is a solid example of Deconstructivism. But the museum’s twisted appearance belies its more traditional interior. Inside, the brick-walled galleries give the museum life beyond the warbled, silver snapshot you’re sure to take from the street.
Mississippi: Biloxi Lighthouse
Don’t let the simplicity of this Biloxi, Mississippi lighthouse fool you — it has weathered two of the worst storms in American history. In 1969, even as Hurricane Camille wiped out most of the Mississippi coast, the Biloxi beacon stood strong. It did so again in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina’s 28-foot storm surge decimated the coast. The 45-foot-tall structure was built in 1848, featuring a foundation of bricks covered by panels of cast iron. The lighthouse gleams a brilliant white and stands proudly in between four lanes of highway traffic — the only lighthouse in the country to do so.
Missouri: Gateway Arch
This singular monument defines the St. Louis skyline in Missouri and stands as tribute to the American people and their westward expansion of the U.S. The Modernist, stainless steel masterpiece by architect Eero Saarinen soars to 630 feet at its tallest point. The Gateway Arch is also Missouri’s tallest accessible building (a tram ride will take you to the very top), the tallest man-made monument in the U.S., and the tallest arch in the world.
Montana: Cathedral of Saint Helena
Montana is undoubtedly home to some of the most spectacular parks and mountains in the country, but the state also has some intriguing architecture worth seeking out. One of the Big Sky State’s standout structures is the Cathedral of Saint Helena in the capital of Helena. Built atop a hill in the early 1900s, the Catholic church is visible from most places in the city. Its intricate, Gothic Revival style is purposefully reminiscent of the neo-Gothic Votivkirche church in Vienna. While the cathedral’s exterior is indeed a work of ornate beauty, don’t miss the interior’s handmade, stained-glass windows, brightly decorated rib vaults, and delicate gilded details.
Nebraska: Holy Family Shrine
A contemporary Catholic church isn’t exactly something you’d expect to come across in Nebraska’s wide-open fields along the interstate, but just outside the small town of Gretna, you’ll find the stunning Holy Family Shrine in the bluffs overlooking the Platte Valley. Wooden beams arch across floor-to-ceiling windows, creating a dazzling display of light and shadows inside. Upon entry, visitors are at peace in the prairie setting, while a small, man-made stream flows underneath the church’s center aisle, bringing the outdoors in.
Nevada: Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is considered an engineering marvel in America, transforming the power from the mighty rapids of the Colorado River into electricity, and ultimately fueling the future development of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and other cities out West. But the dam is also architecturally riveting. From its signature, sweeping arch to its elegant Art Deco flourishes and Navajo and Pueblo motifs throughout the interior, every detail of the immense structure demands a closer look.
New Hampshire: Omni Mount Washington Resort
New Hampshire is well-known for its scenic beauty rather than its architecture, but the Omni Mount Washington Resort in the ski town of Bretton Woods is one of the biggest and most beautiful structures in the state. Set against the backdrop of the massive Mount Washington, the grand hotel’s sprawling multiple wings and brilliant red roof hold their own among the surrounding scenery. The white, Renaissance Revival-style resort was designed by architect Charles Alling Gifford and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
New Jersey: Cape May Victorian Homes
Cape May, also known as the “Jersey Cape,” is widely considered one of the most photogenic spots in the state. And while the sandy beaches, the historic Cape May Lighthouse, and the charming downtown shops and restaurants all contribute to its visual appeal, it’s the seaside town’s colorful, late-Victorian houses featuring gingerbread-trim embellishments that are the real standouts in the storybook town.
New Mexico: Earthships
Just northwest of Taos, New Mexico, a compound of off-grid, sustainable homes has been around since the 1970s. Pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds, these “Earthships” are largely constructed out of found, upcycled materials including tires, aluminum cans, bottles, and more. While Reynolds takes pride in using, well, garbage in his designs, the natural structural elements — dirt and molded mud — make for beautiful, one-of-a-kind structures that seemingly blend into the desert landscape.
New York: Chrysler Building
While it’s true that the Empire State Building gets most of the attention and accolades, the Chrysler Building is the true star of the Big Apple’s skyline. The building, finished in 1930, is a world-class example of Art Deco design. Its distinctive, metal-clad crown and spire look even more magnificent when lit up at night, and a special kind of stainless steel make its approximately 50 protruding metal details, including gargoyles and an American eagle, all the more appealing.
North Carolina: Biltmore Estate
The Vanderbilt family was one of the most prominent U.S. families during the Gilded Age, and their wealth and status were on full display with the 1895 construction of their Biltmore family estate in Asheville, North Carolina. George Vanderbilt hired architect Richard Morris Hunt to bring his French château visions to life, and famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the gardens on the 8,000-acre property. The incomprehensibly luxurious house is still privately owned, but welcomes upwards of 1.4 million visitors to revel in its larger-than-life splendor every year.
North Dakota: Blockhouse at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, located almost 10 miles south of Mandan, North Dakota, is home to several reconstructed military buildings, including replicas of the earth lodges used by the Mandan Native Americans for hundreds of years. However, the most striking work of architecture is the replica of the infantry blockhouse. Although blockhouses have military defense roots that date to the Middle Ages, the Mandan reconstruction resembles structures used from the 1700s and onward in North America. Standing tall on the open prairie, the Fort Abraham blockhouse is a simple yet stunning piece of architectural history in the state.
Ohio: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
You can’t go to Cleveland without visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — or at the very least, getting a great photo of its iconic exterior. Designed by I. M. Pei, the building is a confluence of geometric shapes, all anchored by the 162-foot tower that’s visible from Lake Erie. The metal-and-glass structure extends out to a triangular, street-level entryway, which features floor-to-ceiling windows that look as impressive in the daytime as they do lit up at night.
Oklahoma: Skydance Bridge
The scissor-tailed flycatcher, Oklahoma’s state bird, was the inspiration for this one-of-a-kind pedestrian bridge that crosses Interstate 40 just outside of downtown Oklahoma City. The bridge’s defining feature — four geometrical triangular structures — resemble the bird’s distinct forked feathered tail. The sculptures soar 197 feet above the 380-foot-long bridge, making the Skydance Bridge a very visible and beloved landmark in the capital city. Though it looks impressive no matter what time of day, it’s especially beautiful when illuminated by colorful LED lights at night.
Oregon: Ira Keller Fountain
Oregon’s natural beauty is so abundant that traces of it can even be found in its man-made structures. The Keller Fountain in downtown Portland is a remarkable piece of public art, designed by Angela Danadjieva and inspired by nearby waterfalls in Columbia River Gorge. Water cascades over massive, interspersed concrete blocks, collecting in a 75,000-gallon pool beneath. The fountain is not only meant to be appreciated with the eyes. The public is also encouraged to climb, sit on, and splash around the geometric structures as if they were enjoying nature itself.
Fallingwater might be Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous work, and it’s certainly one of the most famous landmarks in Pennsylvania. Located in the Laurel Highlands in the Allegheny Mountains, the stunning house was designed in 1935 to blend in with the property’s surrounding waterfall and rock faces. Its several terraces jut out above the cascading water, appearing to float above the mountainside landscape. The organic architecture continues inside, as boulders found onsite create the fireplace hearth, and ledge rocks protrude through the living room floor as decor.
Rhode Island: The Breakers
This 70-room, Gilded Age mansion was built in 1895 as a summer retreat for the wealthy Vanderbilt family. Named for the waves that crash onto the cliffs below, the Italian Renaissance-style home may be even more opulent inside than out: The home’s designers used marble, wood, and mosaic tiles from around the world, including Italy and Africa. The library mantle even came directly from a château in France. The Breakers can be seen as part of Rhode Island’s famed Cliff Walk attraction along the historical Newport shoreline.
South Carolina: Rainbow Row
Not only is Rainbow Row a pastel-hued scene straight out of a postcard, it’s also a great example of Georgian row house architecture. The Charleston landmark comprises 13 homes — the longest stretch of Georgian row houses in the U.S. The charming houses were first built in the mid-1700s, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that they received their iconic paint job. The houses were painted their signature colors in the 1930s to give them some curb appeal and reflect sunlight to keep the homes cool.
South Dakota: Mount Rushmore
This colossal rock carving of four U.S. presidents is indisputably one of the most recognizable — and remarkable — American landmarks in existence. The 60-foot-tall work of art features the faces of former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln etched into a granite face in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore was designed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who also oversaw the 14-year undertaking, which was constructed using drills, chisels, and dynamite. Despite design and technique advancements since the memorial’s erection, the impact of the sculpted masterpiece and its sheer scale has not dissipated over the years.
Tennessee: Hunter Museum of American Art
The state of Tennessee is a mecca for artists, musicians, and other creatives, but while the capital of Nashville is known as Music City, Chattanooga boasts the Hunter Museum of American Art, home to the most robust collection of American art in the southeastern U.S. Perched 80 feet high on a rocky bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, the Hunter Museum represents three distinct architectural styles, including the original Neoclassical mansion, a Brutalist addition built in 1975, and a Modernist, stainless steel geometrical wrap designed by Randall Stout added in 2005.
Texas: Twilight Epiphany Skyspace
Designed by renowned artist James Turrell, this unconventional, pyramidal performance space in Houston, Texas looks out of this world. Built in 2012, the sleek structure is made out of glass, concrete, stone and composite steel, and is also equipped with LED lights that illuminate the ceiling during sunrise and sunset. The space also acts as an instructional facility for students at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.
Utah: Natural History Museum of Utah
Built into the foothills of Salt Lake City’s Wasatch Mountain Range, the Natural History Museum of Utah blends right into its environment. Wrapped in standing seam copper mined from the nearby Bingham Canyon Mine, the museum features a horizontal striped pattern to mimic the state’s layered red rock formations.
Vermont: Middle Covered Bridge
Vermont is home to more than 100 covered bridges, and the beautiful structures are an important part of the Green Mountain State’s history — and its charm. The Middle Covered Bridge crossing the Ottauquechee River in Woodstock is a photographer’s dream. The 139-foot-long lattice truss bridge is scenic year-round. Whether it’s surrounded by the state’s famous fall foliage, dusted with snow and donned with a Christmas wreath, or surrounded by spring and summer blooms, the Middle Covered Bridge is postcard-worthy.
Virginia: Virginia Beach Fishing Pier
Sometimes, the simplest structures are the most beautiful. The fishing pier at Virginia Beach is undoubtedly augmented by its serene seaside setting (especially at sunrise or sunset). Its tall, rustic wooden pillars, which hold the scenic boardwalk roughly 30 feet above the Atlantic, make the pier a magical place on the East Coast.
Washington: Museum of Pop Culture
One of Frank Ghery’s wildest designs is the 140,000-square-foot Museum of Pop Culture (also known as the MoPOP) in Seattle. A melting pot of shapes, textures, and colors, the unforgettable building features an exterior consisting of 21,000 individual stainless steel shingles. The panels change colors in different lighting or when viewed from different angles, and are said to embody the constantly evolving nature of music and culture.
West Virginia: Prabhupada's Palace of Gold
It’s been called America’s Taj Mahal and one of the eight religious wonders to see in the U.S., and Prabhupada's Palace of Gold certainly lives up to the hype. Located unexpectedly in the mountains of Moundsville, West Virginia, the palace and temple was built in 1973 by Hare Krishna devotees. The labor of love is rich with detail. Constructed of stained glass, colorful stones, marble, teak, silver, and gold, the building makes for some stunning photography — especially during the annual Festival of Colors.
Wisconsin: State Capitol Building
State capitol buildings tend to be some of the most notable structures in the United States, and that’s certainly true in Madison, Wisconsin. Four wings, all connecting at the central, granite-capped rotunda, reach out to form the building’s “X” shape. Inside, intricate mosaics and murals fill the stately halls, while details made of marble and limestone imported from around the world add to the opulence.
Wyoming: Moulton Barns
Beloved by photographers, the historic Moulton Barns are some of the most historically significant properties in Wyoming. The picturesque gambrel barns set against a backdrop of the magnificent Teton Range are part of Mormon Row, a community of homesteads established by Mormon settlers from Idaho in the 1890s — and definitely worthy of your lens’ focus.