Yangon is a city where time stood still… but reality is catching up fast, property developers are moving in swiftly to snap up the properties left behind by the government when they moved to the new capital Nay Pyi Daw.
The recent opening up of Myanmar opens many windows of opportunity. Preservation of the unique cityscape is one of them. Contrary to many other cities in Asia and because of period of political and economic isolation, Yangon still has a lot of its architectural heritage intact. Now that the city is on the brink of rapid development this presents a unique timely and very short window of opportunity.
The Yangon Heritage Thrust (YHT) is a group of Yangon residents who fear that these unique buildings may disappear and fall prey to property developers to be replaced by skyscrapers. Under leadership of Dr. Thant Myint-U they started a campaign to preserve the hundreds of priceless colonial-era buildings that make up Yangon’s unique cityscape with support from architects, members of the business community and non-government organisations. In addition to publications, public talks, and awareness raining campaigns, the trust has also initiated talks to come to what is the inevitable next step to guide development in the inner city: a viable private sector-led conservation plan. Without such a plan, Yangon’s unique heritage may fall victim to the modern urban frenzy.
I had the privilege of working with the Yangon Heritage Trust, Myanmar Association of Architects, Yangon Technical University and Yangon City Development Corporation in June 2013 on the first steps of making this plan. To be continued….