South Korea

Heart of the city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2003, 12:00am

We are surrounded by cities. They inspire and support us, frustrate us, give us comfort and sometimes frighten us. But every day all over the world millions of people interact with the city to play, to work, to learn and to reinvent their lives. We are urban beings and to escape is unthinkable.

The city is a melting-pot where people combine their ideas and their lives. It is a place of constant movement, an intense experience that is complex and at times confusing to deal with. The city is a mess of fragmented bits that we must assemble in some sort of order so we can survive. To exist and thrive in our city means filtering out and responding to hundreds of signs, sounds and signals that constantly bombard us. This becomes automatic with time, but at what cost? Can anyone be a true individual while reacting to the demands of the city?

Cities lure people into their grip. All over the world urban populations are rapidly growing. In just 40 years, South Korea's population has swung from 80 per cent rural to 80 per cent urban.

The city is a vast living organism where you always have to fight to find your place. But it is also a place of fun and laughter where joy, pleasure and quiet moments are around the next corner. Sometimes the city is what you want it to be. But from whatever angle you approach your city, one thing is certain. The city is yours.

Manchester, the world's first industrialised city, is the perfect setting for a new and unique museum that celebrates the thrills and excitement of city life. Urbis is a breathtaking all-glass structure that tells the story of cities by using cutting-edge technology to bring to life the excitement of human urbanisation.

Once inside Urbis, visitors take a diagonal lift that cuts through the six open-plan floors. As the lift takes you to the top of the building, the Manchester skyline falls away and you end your short journey in the dark space of Arrive which suddenly bursts to life simulating arrival in the city. It is disorientating; your senses are bombarded with noise, flashing images and even fake wind. You struggle to get your bearings. You have arrived in the city.

Now you walk into the mystery of discovering a huge city for the first time. You are surrounded by questions. As you go down on to the next floor, called Change, the city falls into place. Human-sized Russian dolls come to life and tell you why human beings live in cities. The next floor, Order, shows how cities function and thrive and Explore is an enthralling interactive area where you can compare various world cities and create a city of your own.

Urbis is more like an experience than going to a museum. It is staffed by young actors who play the parts of city dwellers guiding you through the fascinating exhibits. You feel a part of Urbis the moment you get out of the life at the top of the building. It is a museum where you connect immediately with the dazzling exhibits and the whole aim of the place. There is nothing remote about Urbis. It is alive and it challenges the way you look at yourself and the part you play in the city that surrounds you.

After reading the article, can you tell what words mean the following?

1. a difficult or confused situation (n)

2. the angle where two streets join (n)

3. to prevent something from being successful (v)

4. to separate unwanted materials, usually from a liquid (v)

5. being the only one of its kind (adj)

6. to direct a large number of questions or comments at someone (v)

7. to grow stronger (v)

8. a long view of something (n)

9. belonging to a town or city (adj)

10. the Latin word meaning 'of the city' (n)

Answers: 1.mess, 2.corner, 3. to frustrate, 4. to filter, 5. unique, 6. to bombard, 7. to thrive, 8. vista, 9. urban, 10. Urbis.