Garden in Your City IELTS Cue Card Question & Answer

IELTS speaking: Gardens

In Part 2 of IELTS speaking, candidates are asked to speak about something in particular for between 1 and 2 minutes. Be prepared to speak for as long as you can; the examiner will indicate when the time limit has been reached.

In the IELTS speaking test, candidates receive a cue card (like the one shown below) with some key points or questions – and are allowed 1 minute to plan and prepare their response.

To do well in the IELTS speaking test it’s a good idea to do two things:
    (1) quickly organize your ideas
    (2) make some notes on the key points to include in your answer.

IELTS Speaking Tips for answering Part 2 questions

  • Check the wording of the cue card statement and questions carefully.
  • Identify and underline key words.
  • Check the grammar used – verb tenses.
  • Take quick notes to help organize your response.

Now let’s do an example: here is an IELTS cue card:

Describe a garden that you have visited and liked.
You should say:

  • the name of this garden
  • where it was
  • what it looked like
  • what people did (or, were doing) there
and explain why you liked it.

First, identify and circle or underline the key words in the statement and bullet points to help you to structure your answers: garden, liked, name, location (where), looked like (appearance), doing (activities), why liked (reasons)

Be sure to use synonyms wherever possible to increase your range of vocabulary used in the answers.

Quickly check the grammar, in this case the cue card uses the past simple tense, so be sure to use this tense in your response. For this question it’s also possible to use the past progressive (continuous tense) to describe the activities the people were doing when you visited the garden i.e. while you were there.

IELTS Speaking Tips – Making Notes

Here is how to organize your ideas quickly based on the key points mentioned in the cue card.

NameParadise Grove Gardens
Locationcity center, main square
Appearancereally large, well laid out, fountains, lawns, flowers, trees,
Reasons for likingVery beautiful, tranquil, lovely weather that day, lots of color, interesting watching the people
Activitieswalking, relaxing, reading, playing with dog, playing guitar, strolling with baby, taking pictures,

Gardens and Urban Development

A garden in a city

Singapore has established itself as one of the largest cities in the world. Economically and culturally it identifies itself as a global leader, and this success is reflected in the "skyline" and in the vitality of the fabric of the city.

With the expansion of its central business district involving Marina Bay, it has embarked on a series of projects that will dramatically expand this success and make Singapore one of the most compelling maritime cities in the world.

The Bay Gardens are at the heart of these projects and will demonstrate the role of landscape in the integration of a large and complex center for the 21st century.

Of course, Singapore is not unique in the progressive transformation of its maritime front. This has been one of the central themes of urban renewal projects throughout the world in recent decades.

Many of the world's largest cities are maritime trade centers, and this has placed them at the forefront of global networks of development, innovation and cultural exchange.

These are characterized by their economic strength and multicultural sense, and today they are capitalizing their waterfronts to define their identities and face new urban and economic trends.

Singapore is in a position to establish a new standard for maritime cities in the next two decades. Sydney, Vancouver, Boston, San Francisco and
Shanghai are well regarded as maritime cities, but none of them can match Singapore's potential for the integration of recreation, intimacy, civic purpose and economic power of its central business districts into a coherent and unified urban design solution.

Bay Gardens and the Marina Reservoir will establish the landscape of the coast, and the infrastructure platform to turn this aspiration into reality.

Marina Bay and the key urban trends

There are three general trends that are especially important for understanding the challenges and potential that characterize the ambition of the Bay Gardens.

First, leisure has become a key component of urban life and an important driver of urban development. Whether as spectators or as participants we are increasingly attracted to sporting events and outdoor activities, and our cities need to accommodate them.

Second, the learning experience is assuming a more central role in daily cultural and leisure activities. This has become particularly true with the boom in the knowledge economy industries.

A growing diversity of museums and science centers join concert halls and theaters as central components of the urban cultural fabric.
Together, these two trends are redefining the expectations of the big cities of the world, both from the point of view of residents and visitors.

A successful urban fabric is one that can incorporate these new resources into the patterns of daily life.

The third trend in importance is that city centers are becoming much more complex urban environments. The center of Singapore lies at the heart of a vibrant city-region and must bring together an increasingly diverse set of urban functions and strengths.

Greater demand for mobility and connectivity means new transport infrastructures that must fit perfectly with the growing expectations of residential resources and services.

Gardens and quiet pedestrian streets must at the same time be active and interwoven with corporate towers and highways.

There has never been more pressure on city centers to effectively manage complexity and intensity. This is the reason why the landscape has become such an important ally of urbanism in the city of the 21st century.

The tools of the landscape architect are oriented towards the management of complex ecological systems that occupy and transform the soil over time.

Singapore's goal of becoming a large coastal city has progressed markedly in recent years. The numerous new services that animate the Singapore river bank and extend upriver towards Clarke Quay bear witness to this intention.

It is an objective that will reach its fullness and critical mass only with the completion of the Bay Gardens and the urban projects associated with them.

The scale and nature of the transformation of the city center through these projects can hardly be exaggerated.

Not only will they offer a spectacular increase in the surface of urbanized land and population, these projects will also create a new balance between life and work in the center of Singapore, and this constitutes the necessary condition for a continuity in the activity of both day and night of the installations facing the sea.

It is precisely the ambition with which Singapore is responding to the urban trends of today that makes the Bay Gardens one of the most exciting projects in the urban world.

The objective of the project is clearly the fulfillment of the promise that these trends contain.

The key challenges: balance and integration

Despite their beauty and attraction, the waterfronts present a challenge of urbanism, which is often underestimated. The water masses themselves are not inhabited, so they cannot offer a critical mass of population as a support for local resources and services.

They interrupt the patterns of daily urban activity and present a natural challenge for seamless connectivity.

Establishing an active set of gardens on a platform facing the sea means facing these challenges. First, it means setting goals beyond the usual function of an urban park. The challenge here is not only to give a respite to the bustling activity of the city, but also to boost the energy of the city towards the coastline and the seduction of water to the heart of the city.

Bay Gardens is a proposal in search of the necessary balance and integration that interweave the city and its sea front. The traditional park has very few qualities to achieve this end.

The Gardens, on the other hand, aim at a great wealth of purposes and activities, they must offer a balance between accessibility and diversity of experiences to serve in a compatible way to residents and visitors.

The Gardens should promote the same quality activity both at night and during the day and achieve the greatest efficiency in the passage of the sidewalks of the city to the access to the boats.

Reaching critical mass implicit in these objectives requires attention to multiple scales of integration. For example, a couple dining at Clarke Quay, father and son paddling in a kayak in the Kallang Basin and two teenage girls learning about tropical highland plants in the cold stove, they all must see themselves in interchangeable places in a simple system. At the same time, future residents near Republic Avenue and the South Marina should incorporate a short walk in their local garden to the water's edge as part of their daily lives.

The beauty of Singapore as a garden city on a tropical island makes it easy to imagine the future result. The challenge of planning is to understand the progressive elaboration of the image from the emergence of a new well-inhabited landscape.

The generation of new ecosystems must fit with the gradual urban growth and the development of infrastructures. One of the strong points is a solid understanding of landscape systems and their temporal evolution in three dimensions. How the landscape can respond to urban development over time, adapt to new infrastructures, and offer new options for leisure activities can help establish comfortable outdoor environments. The objective is to show how the details of landscape design, from the plantation schemes and the morphology of the land to its structure facing the sea and environmental engineering, can contribute to the progressive emergence of a new and vibrant model of urban life in Singapore.

From the understanding of design to the principles of planning

Urbanism often works from the abstraction of the functional planes towards a more detail-rich design. This begins by clarifying the vision of a three-dimensional landscape form, asking how it can be materialized over time with the best effect, and then establishing the planning principles that allow policymakers and stakeholders participate in the implementation process.

It is essential to be aware of the complexity of the landscapes and the way they are molded over time, configuring the character of their occupation.

Urban landscapes present a wonderful diversity that derives from the particular forms they adopt in their response to environmental conditions, both environmental and cultural, and it is the role of planning and design to turn this variety into something coherent, effective and manageable. Design research has verified the five principles that will govern the approach to the design process with Singapore.

First of all, both because of an inclination and of the reading of the urban fabric of Singapore, we foresee the Bay Gardens as a great texture, in a three-dimensional landscape. Wavy terrains, next to protected promenades through covered squares, thus giving a natural response to the tropical
climate that offers untapped potential for design.

There is a common acceptance of textured landscapes and varied terrain, this offers a rich design vocabulary, which can be used for various purposes. The opening of the land and the juxtaposition of levels can help improve readability and orientation in intricate environments.

The texture and relief printed on the landscape can help to achieve spatial clarity and provide a well-defined symbolism, when seen from the surrounding towers.

The most important thing is that it allows us to intertwine the networks of roads and spaces for events and thus, intensify the activity in the gardens.

Second, we believe that the design philosophy of urban parks has shifted towards blurring the limits of experience with the surrounding urban fabric. While NParks must guarantee clear lines of responsibility for the maintenance of public spaces, nowadays the relationship between the park and the city is often conceived as overlapping layers of design elements and urban programs.

As far as possible, coherence and continuity need to be obtained with the surrounding urban blocks. A similar intention guides the approach to the interface between the gardens and the Marina Reservoir.

Third, we imagine the mobility patterns of the park as extensions of the mesh of its surroundings, diversifying its execution and bringing new proposals and activities to the urban fabric. The gardens should serve the surrounding communities and, at the same time, establish new nodes for recreation and learning in the largest network of urban resources in Singapore.

Instead of seeing the gardens as the antithesis or the interruption of urban activity, we see them as bearers of variety and intensity to the life of the city.

In this way, the gardens contribute to the broader goal of connectivity and support the continued development of public transport systems.

Fourth, each of the three specifically differentiated gardens is part of a coherent circuit linked to waterfronts. We fully agree with the orientation of the design guide that suggests that each of the gardens should be sensitive to both the adjacent water sheets and neighboring urban fabrics.

This reveals a diversity of characters along the coastline and sharpens the logic of the larger network. However, we encourage the possibility of safeguarding a future intensification of the waterfront circuit by associations superimposed between the gardens.

For example, could we link the educational function of the Kallang Basin with an exhibition center for the physiology of sports? Or perhaps, complement the search for environmental awareness in the South Marina, with a center for the study of the life of amphibians in the gardens of the East Marina?

The fifth principle also clarifies the position in the differentiation of gardens. We believe that the form should be driven by a well-documented knowledge of environmental conditions.

This can be achieved with the models of sunlight and shade, the dominant direction of the breezes, the natural drainage channels, and the diversity of the seasons to achieve a design that is sustainable, comfortable and technically intelligent.

Singapore, a city in the tropics, aims to become a city within a garden. The Bay Gardens project gives the city the opportunity to create a garden in its heart. All the big cities have a big park in the center of the city, Central Park in New York, Grant Park in Chicago, Hyde Park in London and the Tuileries Garden in Paris, would be some examples.

All of them are unique and represent in each city the culture, the heritage and a historical position, and have evolved to meet the needs of the dynamic cities that surround them.

Bay Gardens must have the ambition to become Singapore's iconic garden. They will have to give body to the concept of "City in a garden" becoming an integral part of the city.

Bay Gardens should set new standards for gardens and parks in the future. The Parc de la Villette in Paris and the Millennium Park in Chicago are two contemporary parks that have shaped a new park concept integrating various cultural activities.

Both parks have, however, little horticultural or environmental interest. The Bay Gardens should become an important reference in the landscape and the design of urban parks. In the concept of "City in a Garden", horticulture and the environment have an important role where they will be combined perfectly with cultural, educational, urban and leisure activities.

Marina Bay is in the heart of the Bay Gardens. It will become the visual and emotional center of the gardens and its main feature. However, to become the active center of the Garden it needs to be inhabited.

The gardens will not stop at the Bay, while the Bay will become part of the Garden. The Bay and Gardens, in turn, will be surrounded by the center of the city in constant expansion, the business, commercial, cultural and residential districts will make the Gardens and the Bay its center.

The aspirations of the city to achieve its goal of moving from being a garden city to becoming a city within a garden requires taking on the challenge that the status and function of a garden is to be in the center of cities.

Just as the urban fabric of Singapore softens and dematerializes within its garden context, the popularity of the Bay Gardens depends on its ability to dematerialize its borders and merge its identity with the attributes, events and activities related to the vibrant city that it surrounds it.

The Gardens must capture the spirit of the place and be the manifestation of the culture and heritage of Singapore. Creating a balance between complex detail and distant clarity.

The character of the city of Singapore has very memorable qualities that are formalized by its context, one is attracted by its tropical greenery, its warm and humid climate envelops the body, its different commercial districts create layers of vitality, texture and color. It is truly a complex, multicultural and dense city, still spatially permeable.

As one moves through Singapore by bridges, tunnels, underpasses, over and under the layers of activity, this can be a dizzying experience, where climbing to the top of a tower reveals an understanding of one's position in the city, its orientation, points of reference and connections, however on the ground one immerses oneself in the smells, textures, colors, atmosphere and energy of local life.

The intention is to bring the complex, multi-level reading of the city in juxtaposition with its moments of high level of clarity, creating a landscape language that is three-dimensional in form and experience.

One could enter the gardens through a subway tunnel and find a gloomy gully, with a walkway above and the water slipping on a rocky surface.

You could get to a walkway on a busy road and find yourself on the top of a hill overlooking the green valleys and a cool breeze.
Our desire is to create a garden in which space and atmosphere are as rich as the city that surrounds it.

Creating a balance between comfort and adventure

Moving from one experience to another in Singapore is done with a purpose, not just to go out, since being in a warm and humid climate city, allows you to move easily. The Gardens will succeed as a popular attraction if the diverse experiences are developed to perfection and offered close to transportation and in comfortable and convenient places.

No one wants to go easily to the park and then find their overwhelming pedestrian scale. We want to provide shaded covered routes in the most easily accessible areas of the city, but at the same time we encourage the widest circulation in the entire park, with the fleets of solar energy in the water and land vehicles that lead to the attractions, with levels of efficiency that are normally associated with the city center.

The experience of the gardens will be enhanced by encouraging movement to and through the Bay. Here the coastal winds allow taking speed on the smooth surface, turning the seashore and the boat ride into an event and natural destination.

In the most remote areas of the pleasant marine breezes of the Bay, you will achieve a respite from the heat sitting in the shade of a canopy tree or tea house, with a look at what is produced in the surrounding landscape and the city beyond.

The evenings, the coolest part of the day, when the workday has been completed will require in the Garden, a level of interest in the introduction of light, both for practical and theatrical purposes to reinforce the atmosphere of the Garden experience and the scheduled events.

Creating a unique language of the landscape as a symbol for and of the city

Creating a balance between complexity and clarity, rich experiences and occasional relaxation, humidity and pleasant breezes requires the creation of a unique landscape in particular for Singapore. The three-dimensional spatial reading of the city will find its place in the park through sensual reliefs that allude to the freshness, greenness and shapes of the leaves found in the tropics.

Visitors will move through, over and under their surfaces. This undulating landscape sculpted with layers of water, light, shade and plants, valleys and hills will induce visitors to delve into its depths before it, in turn, opens to reveal the bay and the bright attractions to explore in its three shores.

The most important public garden in the city should be a reflection of how it sees itself and a statement of how it wants to be seen by the outside world.

From the beginning the public space of Singapore, the Bay Gardens will lead to the creation of a new identity for the city, a garden that in all its parts will be both comfortable and loved by its citizens.

Gardens for those who want to walk, inhabit and use, providing the city with spaces that can inspire imaginative responses, through the ability to suggest ideas and generate diverse events and project Singapore as a unique city in its region and in the world.