IELTS Cue Card Sample 367 - Describe an unusual building you have visited

IELTS Speaking Part 2: IELTS Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card.

Describe an unusual building you have visited.

You should say:

  • where it is
  • how it looks like
  • why you went there

and explain why you think it was unusual.

Model Answer 1:
Buildings are strange things, they are easy to take for granted if they are the ones you live near to and pass by every day, but some buildings are really remarkable, and not always for outwardly obvious reasons. It would be easy to pick an ‘unusual’ building that has an extraordinary external architecture, and of course, they can be remarkable, impressive and on occasion beautiful. However, the building I want to talk about is certainly unusual, unique even, but you wouldn’t necessarily know this unless you went inside.

So I’ll tell you where it is and what it looks like, why I went there, and explain what it is that makes it so rare.

The building is in Sheffield where I live. It is a large tower block and as well as being the second tallest building in the city I am told it is the tallest university building in the UK. It is known as 'The Arts Tower', because those are the subjects that were originally taught inside its four walls. Degrees like modern languages, philosophy and other Humanities disciplines. It is a classic 60’s tower, twenty stories high and constructed of concrete and glass. Honestly, it’s not particularly attractive - not in my eyes anyway, though it is typical of that era in architectural terms. Even so, it is something of a local landmark, because it is so high you can see it from almost anywhere in the city. It has so many glass windows that in certain lights the building seems to change colour as they reflect the light of the skies outside. It can look like burnished gold in sunset, or in the dark, when the internal lights are on, it is lit up like a Christmas Tree. I wouldn’t call it beautiful, but it is striking. However, these factors, ‘though ‘interesting’, aren’t what make the building so unusual. The reason I made a special visit to see inside it, is because of what lies within…

The building was constructed with a really rare and unusual elevator. It’s called a Paternoster Lift, and before I moved to Sheffield I’d never even heard of one. They are a little tricky to describe, but I’ll have a go! Essentially, a paternoster lift is a passenger elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two persons) that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping. Passengers can step on or off at any floor they like, but the lift just keeps moving so they have to be quick! There are no sliding doors to shut you in the elevator, you just step in the opening and stand in it until it reaches the floor you want, when you carefully step out as the chain of ‘boxes’ just carries on in slow but continuous motion. The design is pretty ancient, going back to the 1880s, so at the time they were first created they must have seemed extraordinarily innovative, but now the lift is unusual because it is such historic engineering. Very few of the lifts survive because of safety concerns - the continuous motion and open ‘doors’ means people can fall going in and out, and a few years ago someone was actually killed using one getting caught in the mechanism somehow as the compartment they were in transitioned from going up one side to going down in the loop the other at the top of the lift. Sheffield, however, has kept its paternoster lift and kept it in working order too. I think it might be the largest one in the world, at 38 separate compartments (or maybe they should be called carriages), but it is definitely the largest in the UK.

I made a special visit to the building to try out the lift with a friend. In such a technological age where we take things like escalators – even flying for granted, it was a strangely unsettling experience. It actually took a little while to pluck up the courage to step into the moving platform as it passes by as you have to time your entrance quite carefully. Similarly, you need to judge it carefully getting off, too slow and there isn’t time to jump before you are taken off to the next floor, too fast and you might bump your head as the opening isn’t quite clear. There is a definite knack to it! It was like travelling back in time, you could imagine people in Victorian times in England being astonished at such extraordinary technology, it is impressive now – it must have been mind-blowing then!

So I think this building is unusual because it contains a piece of living history. A working paternoster lift that is possibly unique in size, and certainly extremely rare. The building also has a couple of conventional elevators now, as well as stairs for people to use. However, the paternoster lift is still there, turning slowly, and it is quite fun to have a ride, like travelling back in time on an ancient fairground ride! The building is also a rather literal reminder that you shouldn’t make assumptions only by what is most obvious – you just wouldn’t know from the unpromising exterior of the Arts Tower what lies within! Sometimes if you look beneath the surface a little, very remarkable things emerge. Hence the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover!’

[ Written by - Lucy Marris: Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam) ]


Model Answer 2:
A curved building, a gigantic animal shape in front of a building, crazy arts etc. are quite magnificent architectural examples I have witnessed many times in my life. But nothing can be as unusual or unique than the ‘Basket Building’ I have seen in Ohio, United States. 

This building is the head-quarter of the Longaberger Company and this is a famous manufacturer and distributor of handcrafted maple wood baskets and other home and lifestyle products in the United States. This giant basket building is situated in Dresden, Ohio in the United States. One of my maternal uncle lives in Ohio and I went to visit his house two years back. While visiting different places with my cousins I noticed this building and the exceptional and strange design of this building simply stunned me.  

This building is a giant basket like building. It might give you the impression that a picnic basket has been kept on the side of a park. The idea of establishing a building that represents the corporate brand and the main product the company manufactures was indeed a genius one. It is a 7-story large building which is the head-quarter of the Longaberger's Home Office. This is perhaps the largest basket monument human has ever created. I heard from my cousin that it is around 200 feet long and 136 feet wide. After I returned home and search for more information about this building and found some interesting facts like it took more than 2 years to be completed and it cost 30 million dollars. It occupies more than 25 acres area and the basket handles were settled on the top of this building using 150 tonnes weight copper and wooden rivets.

As I told that, my concept of strange building and monument was redefined after I saw this building. It was quite unique, some would say bizarre.  I think this is the strangest building I have ever seen because of its architectural design and structure. Anyone who has never seen this building would be puzzled and would agree that this is a strangely designed and unusual looking building.

Some other unusual buildings you can talk about:

  • Dancing House (Prague, Czech Republic ).
  • Habitat 67 (Montreal, Canada).
  • Forest Spiral - Hundertwasser Building (Darmstadt, Germany).
  • The Torre Galatea Figueras (Spain).
  • Stone House (Guimarães, Portugal).
  • Cubic Houses (Rotterdam, Netherlands).
  • Wooden Gagster House (Archangelsk, Russia).
  • Manchester Civil Justice Centre (United Kingdom).
  • Beijing National Stadium (Beijing, China).
  • The Ufo House (Sanjhih, Taiwan).
  • Nord LB building (Hannover, Germany)
  • Kansas City Public Library (Missouri, United States).
  • Grand Lisboa (Macao).
  • Container City (London, United Kingdom).
  • Nakagin Capsule Tower (Tokyo, Japan).
  • Wall House, Groningen (Netherlands).

Similar Cue Card Topics:

Your ability to talk about this Cue Card would enable you to talk about the following Cue Cards as well:

  1. Describe an interesting building you have seen.
  2. Describe a place you have recently visited.
  3. Describe a famous building in your city.
  4. Describe a building or house which is interesting.
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 3.75 (2 Votes)