Old Buildings
Have you ever seen some old buildings in the city? Do you think we should preserve old buildings in cities? Do you prefer living in an old building or a modern house? Are there any old buildings you want to see in the future? Why? How do old buildings affect the appearance of a place? What aspects of culture do old buildings reflect?
Vocabulary
  • To repurpose (verb) - to find a new use for an idea, product, or building.
  • Listed building (noun) - a building of great historical or artistic value that has official protection to prevent it from being changed or destroyed.
  • Bring up to code (phrasal verb) - to alter or improve something so that it meets building codes or regulations.
  • World Heritage Site (noun) - a place, for example an area, a building, or a city, that has been put on a list by the organization UNESCO to say that it has special importance, and should be protected.
  • Upkeep (noun) - the cost or process of keeping something, such as a building, in good condition.
  • Well-maintained (adj.) - kept in good order or condition.
  • To anchor (verb) - to make something or someone stay in one position by fastening him, her, or it firmly; to fix something in one position.
  • To infer (verb) - to form an opinion or guess that something is true because of the information that you have.
  • To preserve (verb) - to keep something as it is, especially in order to prevent it from decaying or being damaged or destroyed.
Questions and answers
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M: Have you ever seen some old buildings in the city?

R: Well, my hometown is hundreds of years old. So I see them almost every day, we've got a gallery in town called The McManus which has a kind of Gothic style to it. And that was built in the 1800s. There are also a few old jute mills, which were...sorry they've been repurposed, but they're kept in their original state because they're listed buildings.

M: Do you think we should preserve all the buildings in cities?

R: Assuming they're kept up to code, then I don't see why not. It's a good reminder of the past and a connection to culture that pretty much anyone can access. I visited one of the first mosques in Africa, which was preserved as part of their local history in that area. Though, it really should have been a UN Heritage Site or something like that.

M: Do you prefer living in an old building or in a modern house?

R: I don't mind, really. As long as the place is easy to keep, and it's not falling apart. I've lived in lots of places, and it doesn't seem too difficult to accomplish. But then maybe my standards are just really low.

M: Are there any old buildings you would like to see in the future?

R: I thought about that a lot. I don't think there are places I want to see. But there are people I would like to visit and cultures I want to experience. I don't think buildings mean much without the people around them. That's who they're for after all.

M: How do old buildings affect the appearance of a place?

R: I think that depends on their upkeep, really. If it's in a state of disrepair, then clearly it will bring down the reputation of the area. However, a well-maintained building can be a tourist attraction, or a piece of cultural heritage that anchors the area and its history.

M: What aspects of culture do old buildings reflect?
R: I suppose the architectural styles and tastes are probably the most easily seen. But you can infer a lot about a culture and what influences it and what values and what it wants to preserve just by looking at the buildings. It can tell you a lot about the big ideas and conflicts in a society, actually, now that I think about it.

M: Thank you Rory for your answers!
Discussion
M: So old buildings, how can we paraphrase old buildings? Can I say something like very old or ancient buildings or not new?

R: If you're being like hyperbolic then you could say ancient, I don't see the problem with that. But most buildings you could describe, you just say they're old and how they're old. So for example, we could talk about the style or when they were built. And that adds detail to it. But there's not a great way of paraphrasing old buildings. You could maybe say like it's a former something. It's a former church, for example.

M: Yeah. And you can name the buildings. So churches, galleries, you can talk about museums or ruins, castles. Right? So whatever buildings you have in your area, and Rory said that my hometown is hundreds of years old, or my city is hundreds of years old. Hundreds, hundreds years old? Hundreds of years old?

R: Hundreds of years. Hundreds of.

M: Hundreds of years. Yeah. Or you can say my hometown is 100 years old, right?

R: How old is your hometown?

M: Moscow is 875 years old.

R: That's it. Right. Okay. So it's actually older than 800 years old.

M: And you can say that okay. There is an old gallery. It was built in or it was built back in the 80s. And then it has been repurposed. A very nice verb to repurpose something. So the gallery was repurposed or has been repurposed. So when the building has been repurposed, what happens to it?

R: It starts off with one function and then switches over to another.

M: Or, for example, an old McDonald's has been repurposed.

R: Into a farm.

M: Into a farm. Moo, moo. Old McDonald had a farm...
R: Most commonly in my country, its old churches are repurposed into houses, for example, or restaurants.

M: Hmm, yep. We're talking about preserving old buildings. So not like saving. Preserve. The verb is to preserve old buildings. And Rory, you said that they are kept up to code.

R: Yeah. I don't know if this idea exists in other cultures. But usually, you have to maintain your building to a certain standard. And that's called keeping it up to code.

M: Yeah. So we should keep it up to code, maintain a building. So all buildings should be maintained. So you should keep them in good condition. So Rory said that this place is easy to keep so easy to maintain, we maintain a building. And also you said that a well-maintained building, right? So yeah, there are many old buildings in my area, some of them are well maintained, and others are dilapidated.

R: I love that word, or in a state of disrepair, which just means it's not well maintained or kept up to date.

M: So some of the old buildings are in the state of what? Disrepair?

R: Disrepair, just they're not repaired often enough.

M: Yeah. Or they are in poor condition. They are dilapidated. Band nine. And then you talked about a UN Heritage Site. Right? So UN is United Nations?

R: Yeah. I think. Now, I'm not really an expert in how the UN works. But I think they're called...or World Heritage Sites anyway. So those are places that are of significant cultural importance, in an area and for the world. So obviously, if Islam was a major world religion, one of the first mosques in Africa would be quite important. I assume it wasn't treated that way.

M: So you can say like some of the old buildings are in or UN Heritage Sites. Right? Sites - like places.

R: I mean, you can talk about heritage more broadly.

M: Right. And you talked about cultural heritage, right? So a well-maintained building can be a tourist attraction, or it could be a piece of cultural heritage.

R: Yeah.
M: And then you said like that anchors the area in history.

R: Yeah, but that's just basically when we talk about cultural heritage, that's all about maintaining connections to the past, and the ideas and values that you want to preserve in the society. So if it's anchored in history, then it's doing its job properly. If it's a cultural heritage.

M: When we talk about dilapidated buildings, buildings in poor condition, you can also say that some buildings fall apart. So yeah, there are some buildings in my area, and they are falling apart. Rory, you said that you have low standards, really? You have low standards?

R: I have incredibly low standards. Look at the shirt I'm wearing. It's like 10 years old. I got this like 10 years ago for a charity thing that I did. So do not come to me for fashion advice.

M: Rory and his low standards. Okay. Also, Rory told us that I don't think buildings mean much without the people around them. Oh, it's so cute and nice. So people mean more. So buildings without people are nothing.

R: Is that not true?

M: Oh, yeah, it's true. Yeah, people. It's just people. Yeah, it's not where you go. It's who you go with, or who you meet on the way. Yeah, so it's not just an old building. It's like, who you see in these old buildings, according to Rory. Yeah. Also, you said that, it depends on the upkeep, really. Upkeep?

R: But again, that's just another way of saying it depends on their maintenance or how well they're repaired and kept in a good condition.

M: Yeah, so maintenance, we maintain buildings, you can maintain your car, your house, your flat, and also maintenance. That's why in the company, we have a maintenance department. Yeah. With people who maintain certain things. Yeah. And if it's in a state of disrepair, not despair, despairs for people. Disrepair, then it'll bring down the reputation of the area. So old, dilapidated buildings, buildings in poor condition could be bring down the reputation of the area. And this is a phrasal verb, my friends. And then Rory talked about architectural tastes.
R: But that's just another way of talking about fashion centres and fashion tastes and fashion styles and preferences. There's nothing really new there. You can have, I guess, architectural tastes. And the difference there is that it's something that a lot of people have, whereas fashion tastes can vary between individuals.

M: And you said that you can infer a lot from that. Infer?

R: Infer is like come to an understanding with indirect evidence. So instead of like seeing the link between one thing and another, you just look for clues instead.

M: Yeah, so for example, when we read the book, and you read and you need to deduce the meaning from context, you need to infer what the writer wanted to tell you. Right?

R: Yeah. Because the writer doesn't say I want you to hate this person. They'll make the person really unlikable.

M: Yeah, yeah, infer. And Rory, when you go to places, do you kind of walk around? And do you look at old buildings? Or do you prefer modern ones? Is it more pleasant for you to look at modern buildings out of glass and steel?

R: I don't know. I've never really thought about it before.

M: Think about it now. So let's imagine like you are in... When you first went to Moscow, were you kind of like, was it more pleasant for you to look at old buildings or modern buildings?

R: I don't, I think both of them are fine. Because actually, to be honest with you, they're necessary in the first place because we don't live in the past. Or at least we shouldn't. So it's nice to see where our country has come from, and also where it's going, in general. But there are some places like in Gran Canaria, which is of Spanish island, for example, where everything is new, or it looks new, the very least. And so that's also quite nice, because it fits with the modern aesthetic that they want people to, well, they want to promote in the island, or on the island.

M: Yeah, nice. Nice word aesthetic, the aesthetic of the island.

R: Just don't ask me what it means.
M: Aesthetic. Everything.

R: The look. The look.

M: The atmosphere, the look. Right. And would you like to live in an old castle? So we're thinking Scotland Freedom. We're thinking castles and ghosts.

R: No, that would be like phenomenally expensive. Do you know how expensive it is to live in a building that's hundreds of years old?

M: No, but this podcast is going to be super famous and popular. And you're going to be a celebrity. So you'll have money to maintain a castle with ghosts.

R: I don't want to live in a castle.

M: No? Okay, no castles for Rory. Yeah. Right. Lovely. Now, dear listener, you do have some vocabulary and grammar, about old buildings. So make sure that you can make some examples of old buildings. Maybe you have your favourite old building, again old is like what is old? Well, it's just not new. Right? So don't talk about skyscrapers, right? Very tall buildings. So think about something old.

R: Well, you could I mean, what the Empire State Building is almost 100 years old.

M: Really? The Empire State Building is 100 years old.

R: I think the Empire State Building was built in 1934. Let me just check.

M: Are you joking? Okay, we are googling.

R: So construction started in March 1930 and it opened in the next year, 1931. So that means it's 91 years old. So almost 100 years old. Pretty good. So you could talk about old skyscrapers.

M: In Moscow, we have Soviet skyscrapers. So yeah. Thank you very much for listening! Bye!

R: And we'll see you next week. Bye!
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