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Vocabulary

architect/architecture

sustainable materials

wood/concrete/cement

preservation of historical buildings

residential areas

high-rise buildings/skyscrapers

office blocks

out-of-town supermarkets/ retail parks

inner-city

Reading

Out of the ashes: GT Reading Passage 3

Key vocab

A conservator – a person who works to keep works of art safe, ensuring precious artefacts/painting are in a stable condition and repairing those that have been damaged.

A conservationist – a person who advocates for the protection/preservation of the environment

fire broke out

devastation

restoration

volunteers, builders, archaeologists 

debris

staff thought its loss was inevitable

unprecedented

vandalism

to repair

to upgrade water and heating systems

to update fire and security equipment

Pulling strings to build pyramids (.pdf)

Academic Part 1 (good for GT) True/False/Not Given and Gapfill

Listening

Designing a public concert hall Worksheet

Tapescript and answers

We’ve been discussing the factors the architect has to consider when designing domestic buildings. I’m going to move on now to consider the design of public buildings and I’ll illustrate this by referring to the new Taylor concert hall that’s recently been completed here in the city.

The designer of a public building may need to consider the building’s

  •    function
  •    physical and 31 social context
  •    symbolic meaning

So as with a domestic building, when designing a public building an architect needs to consider the function of the building, for example is it to be used primarily for entertainment or for education or for administration. 

The second thing the architect needs to think about is the context of the building. This includes its physical location obviously but it also includes the social meaning of the building how it relates to the people it’s built for. 

And finally for important public buildings the architect may also be looking for a central symbolic idea on which to base the design, a sort of metaphor for the building and the way in which it is used.

Location and concept of the Concert Hall

On the site of a disused 32 factory

Beside a 33 canal.

The design is based on the concept of a mystery

Let’s look at the new Taylor concert hall in relation to these ideas. The location chosen was a site in a run-down district that has been ignored in previous redevelopment plans. It was occupied by a factory that had been empty for some years. The whole area was some distance from the high-rise office blocks of the central business district and shopping center but it was only one kilometer from the Ring Road. The site itself was bordered to the north by a canal which had once been used by boats bringing in raw materials when the area was used for manufacturing. 

The architect chosen for the project was Tom Harrison. He found the main design challenge was the location of the site in an area that had no neighboring buildings of any importance. To reflect the fact that the significance of the building in this quite rundown location was as yet unknown he decided to create a building centered around the idea of a mystery something whose meaning still has to be discovered.

Building design

It’s approached by a 34 bridge for pedestrians

The building is the shape of a 35 box

One exterior wall acts as a large 36 screen

So how was this reflected in the design of the building? Well Harrison decided to create pedestrian access to the building and to make use of the presence of water on the site. As people approached the entrance they therefore have to cross over a bridge

He wanted to give people a feeling of suspense as they see the building first from a distance and then close up. And the initial impression he wanted to create from the shape of the building as a whole was that of a box

The first side that people see, the southern wall, is just a high flat wall uninterrupted by any windows. This might sound off-putting but it supports Harrison’s concept of the building that the person approaching is intrigued and wonders what will be inside and this flat wall also has another purpose. At night time projectors are switched on and it functions as a huge screen onto which images are projected.

In the auditorium:

– the floor is built on huge pads made of 37 rubber 

– the walls are made of local wood and are 38 curved in shape

– ceiling panels and 39 curtains on walls allow adjustment of acoustics

The auditorium itself seats 1500 people. The floor’s supported by 10 massive pads. These are constructed from rubber and so are able to absorb any vibrations from outside and prevent them from affecting the auditorium. 

The walls are made of several layers of honey-colored wood all sourced from local beech trees. In order to improve the acoustic properties of the auditorium and to amplify the sound, they are not straight, they are curved

The acoustics are also adjustable according to the size of orchestra and the type of music being played. In order to achieve this there are nine movable panels in the ceiling above the orchestra which are all individually motorized and the walls also have curtains which can be opened or closed to change the acoustics.

Evaluation

Some critics say the 40  international style of the building is inappropriate

The reaction of the public to the new building has generally been positive. however the evaluation of some critics has been less enthusiastic. In spite of Harrison’s efforts to use local materials, they criticize the style of the design as being international rather than local and say it doesn’t reflect features of the landscape

Tapescript and vocabulary

We’ve been discussing the factors the architect has to consider when designing domestic buildings I’m going to move on now to consider the design of public buildings and I’ll illustrate this by referring to the new Taylor concert hall that’s recently been completed here in the city.

So as with a domestic building, when designing a public building an architect needs to consider the function of the building, for example is it to be used primarily for entertainment or for education or for administration. The second thing the architect needs to think about is the context of the building. This includes its physical location obviously but it also includes the social meaning of the building how it relates to the people it’s built for. And finally for important public buildings the architect may also be looking for a central symbolic idea on which to base the design, a sort of metaphor for the building and the way in which it is used.

Let’s look at the new Taylor concert hall in relation to these ideas. The location chosen was a site in a run-down district that has been ignored in previous redevelopment plans. It was occupied by a factory that had been empty for some years. The whole area was some distance from the high-rise office blocks of the central business district and shopping center but it was only one kilometer from the Ring Road. The site itself was bordered to the north by a canal which had once been used by boats bringing in raw materials when the area was used for manufacturing. 

The architect chosen for the project was Tom Harrison. He found the main design challenge was the location of the site in an area that had no neighboring buildings of any importance. To reflect the fact that the significance of the building in this quite rundown location was as yet unknown he decided to create a building centered around the idea of a mystery something whose meaning still has to be discovered.

So how was this reflected in the design of the building? Well Harrison decided to create pedestrian access to the building and to make use of the presence of water on the site. As people approached the entrance they therefore have to cross over a bridge. He wanted to give people a feeling of suspense as they see the building first from a distance and then close up. And the initial impression he wanted to create from the shape of the building as a whole was that of a box. The first side that people see, the southern wall, is just a high flat wall uninterrupted by any windows. This might sound off-putting but it supports Harrison’s concept of the building that the person approaching is intrigued and wonders what will be inside and this flat wall also has another purpose. At night time projectors are switched on and it functions as a huge screen onto which images are projected.

The auditorium itself seats 1500 people. The floor’s supported by  massive pads these are constructed from rubber and so are able to absorb any vibrations from outside and prevent them from affecting the auditorium. The walls are made of several layers of honey-colored wood all sourced from local beech trees. In order to improve the acoustic properties of the auditorium and to amplify the sound, they are not straight, they are curved. The acoustics are also adjustable according to the size of orchestra and the type of music being played. In order to achieve this there are nine movable panels in the ceiling above the orchestra which are all individually motorized and the walls also have curtains which can be opened or closed to change the acoustics.

The reaction of the public to the new building has generally been positive however the evaluation of some critics has been less enthusiastic. In spite of Harrison’s efforts to use local materials, they criticize the style of the design as being international rather than local and say it doesn’t reflect features of the landscape or society for which it is built. 

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Speaking

Describe a building that you find interesting.

You should say:

– what it looks like

– what it is used for

– when you first saw it

and explain why you find it interesting.

Leave your 2-minute video here (password ieltsvip1).

 

 

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Writing Practice

Task 1 Academic

Review: Writing Course Advanced Task 1 – Describing changes to a building or town.

Task 1 General Training

There have been several complaints about the reception area where visitors to your company arrive. Your manager has asked you to suggest how the reception area could be improved.

Write a letter to your manager. In your letter

  • describe the complaints that have been made
  • say why the reception area is important
  • suggest how the reception area could be improved

Click here for a model answer

Dear Mr Smith

As per your request, I am writing to outline some of the complaints that we have had about the reception area. 

First of all, a number of visitors expressed their dissatisfaction with the size of the reception area, due to the fact that it is often overcrowded and that there are not enough desks for filling in all the various forms.  They also mentioned the lack of receptionists available to deal with questions at busy times of the day.

Needless to say, the area where visitors arrive is extremely important as it ‘sets the tone’ and gives the first impression of the organization, so I strongly recommend that we make a few radical changes. 

One solution to the space problem would be to knock through to the adjacent room. This would almost double the size of the area, and then we’d be able to get more tables and comfy seats for people who are waiting. I also think we need to consider hiring a second receptionist for peak periods.

I realise that there will be costs involved, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,

Best regards

Fiona Wattam

Task 2

In recent years, some countries have experienced very rapid economic development. This has resulted in higher standards of living in urban areas but not in the countryside.

What problems could this cause? How could these be reduced?

Click here for a model answer

It is inevitable that economic growth is mostly generated in the business and industrial centres of major cities. As a consequence, urban citizens have access to jobs and facilities that improve their living standards considerably. However the wealth is not evenly distributed, and this creates a number of problems in rural areas, which I will outline below.

 First of all, young people from the countryside leave their villages in search of better employment opportunities. The villages are left under-populated, schools and doctors’ surgeries close and the increase in the urban population puts great pressure on housing, infrastructure and services. This leads to the creation of slum areas where conditions may be worse than in the villages. Finally, as a country’s economy develops, there may be an increasing sense of inequality as the towns get richer and the villages get poorer, and this may even result in civil unrest.

The solution to these problems seems to lie in improving the standards of living and the facilities available in the countryside. Perhaps incentives can be offered to factories and companies to relocate; road and rail networks can be built to make such relocation possible; investment could be made into developing tourism in the countryside so that more jobs are created and the income of the local economy grows.

In conclusion, however, improving rural living standards requires investment and political will that is sometimes not easy to generate. More pressure needs to be put on the government to take the plight of rural areas more seriously and to investigate ways in which money invested in rural economies could benefit the country as a whole.

(271 words)

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Speaking Ideas

Part 1 questions

Examiner: What is it like where you live?

I live in a residential area of a busy town in the south of Spain … we have all the facilities you need … good public transport … a good shopping centre … it’s nice …

Examiner: Do you like living in the city?

Yes I do … I like going out with my friends and there are lots of lively bars and restaurants within walking distance of my apartment … I’m a bit of a culture vulture as well so it’s great to have access to art exhibitions and that kind of thing …

Examiner: Do you get many tourists visiting your area?

Not really no … I live in the inner-city and the area is a little run down … it’s basically a lot of high-rise flats and many of the shops are boarded up … so nothing to interest tourists really …

Part 2 Long Turn

Describe an interesting town or city in your country that visitors might enjoy. You should say

  • what the place is called
  • where the place is
  • what the facilities are like

and say why visitors might enjoy going there.

Anyone who comes to my country really should spend some time in Barcelona … it’s a beautiful place … it’s not what you would call a sprawling city … it’s quite compact really and you could walk across the city in a couple of hours … but there’s no need to do that as we have a fantastic public transport system so it’s easy to get around … there are various districts all with their own character … you have the upmarket shops in the centre … you’ll find lots of chain stores you’ll recognise from your own country but also local brands as well … we have the narrow streets in the Gothic district with lots of fashionable boutiques and tourist attractions … there’s the Olympic area and the beaches along the coast … and dotted around the city are some lovely public spaces … parks and squares in the city centre and on the outskirts of Barcelona where people relax with their friends and family … and of course pavement cafes everywhere … all that and some great historical places of interest … so a great destination for tourists …

Part 3 questions

Examiner:  What are the advantages of living in a city or big town?

I think it’s having access to local facilities really … local shops as well as access to larger shopping malls in the city centre … and if you’re well-off you can afford to live in the suburbs away from the busy traffic …

Examiner: In your experience are city centres usually attractive places?

Some can be yes … especially those with a historical interest … but sometimes they’re full of ugly office blocks … multi-story car parks … and residents living in poor housing … it depends on the city doesn’t it?

What are some of the challenges facing towns and cities?

Penny: I suppose traffic congestion is a major problem … and the growth in out-of-town supermarkets and retail parks mean lots of town centre shops are closing down … plus a shortage of good quality housing … I think these are the major challenges …

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How to improve your Writing and Speaking through Reading

This BBC New article asks the common IELTS question – should we renovate old buildings, or knock them down?

There’s an environmental angle to many questions (as well as the Economic, Educational and Ethical angles!) and this article explains it well.
I’ve highlighted the ‘academic’ features of the article – these are easy to reproduce in your own writing e.g.
  • ‘should’ for recommendations and showing your opinion
  • Point + explanation (because of…)
  • Nominalisation (use of nouns, especially at the start of the sentence)
  • Complex structures (Conditionals, which….)
  • Adj + noun (a serious mistake, huge benefits, a crucial component)
  • Synonyms (upgrade, rebuild, refurbish, retrofitting).
  • Effects and collocations (enhances energy efficience, boosts skills, make savings, offer benefits)
  • Hedging (which CAN make it cheaper, CAN bring benefits)
[point] Such structures should be protected – to fight climate change. Property owners should be incentivised to upgrade old buildings, not just knock them down.
[explanation] That is because so much carbon is emitted by creating the steel, cement and bricks for new buildings.
[point] But this is now widely considered a serious mistake [explanation] because of the amount of carbon emitted during the construction of the new building.
It wants the government to change the tax rules which can make it cheaper to rebuild than to refurbish a standing building.
If you avoid demolition you make carbon savings right now, which we really need. [Complex sentence]
Prioritising retrofitting can [hedging] offer huge benefits. [use of nouns to start sentence – nominalisation]
“It enhances energy efficiency and boosts skills and green jobs quickly in the UK. It will be a crucial component for us to move to a low carbon economy.”
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Vocabulary Review

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Glossary

architecturethe art or practice of designing and constructing buildings; the style in which a building is designed and constructed, especially with regard to a specific period, place, or culture.

an architect – a person who designs buildings

Building the pyramids was a brilliant feat of engineering – If you refer to an action, or the result of an action, as a feat, you admire it because it is an impressive and difficult achievement.

environmentally-friendly building materials – building materials which do not have a negative impact on the environment

concrete – a building material made from a mixture of broken stone or gravel, sand, cement, and water, which can be spread or poured into moulds and forms a mass resembling stone on hardening.

cement – a powdery substance mixed with sand, gravel, and water to make concrete.

historical buildingsSomething historic has a great importance to human history. Something historical is related to the past.

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