Street, Yangon, Myanmar[16°77'68.99"N 96°15'32.02"E]
"Keeping heritage alive for a vibrant and viable urban future"

Posts Tagged ‘heritage conservation’

Yangon, the city lost in time

Written by Ester van Steekelenburg on . Posted in Consulting & Advisory, Professional Training

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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….

Crumbling Tibilisi

Written by Ester van Steekelenburg on . Posted in Consulting & Advisory

Dilapidated buildings in historic city centre

Dilapidated buildings in historic city centre

The old town of Tbilisi Georgia is crumbling. The historical city centre ignored by decades of Soviet rule is now subject to newly found investment pressure, as exemplified in the mushroom like new structures masterminded by the Saakashvili government. Not all residents see this as a sign of progress. Gudiashvili Square – a lovely leafy square surrounded by winding streets – was the recent scene of community protest to stop the demolition of historic properties. Thousands of people gathered, encouraged by heritage groups and local entrepreneurs – like café/restaurant Purpur – who recognise the value of the unique properties and urban fabric.

We were in town recently at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture and local heritage NGO Tiflis Hamkari to identify the possibilities for economically viable revitalization of the historic centre. The change of government offers a short but timely window of opportunity to change the mindset: use cultural heritage as an asset for economic development.


Written by Ester van Steekelenburg on . Posted in Cultural Experiences

6 - concert blue house6 - blue house 1

Hip restaurants are setting up shop in Wan Chai and property prices are forcing out the original population. It is the result of a decade long URA led urban renewal frenzy that saw not only the original urban fabric being erased but also a common identity being lost in the streets of Wan Chai to be replaced by the likes of Queen’s cube, Zenith  and the soon to be completed Avenue and Hopewell II; all examples of projects that are ill fitted in the urban context, overburden the infrastructure and most importantly have forced out the resident population and local entrepreneurs.
Yes, many of the buildings may be gone but the community spirit is still alive. Pass through Wan Chai on a Thursday night and you’ll witness something extraordinary: local residents, musicians and artists enjoying an outdoor live music concert while sharing food and wine. This is one of the many examples of Blue House initiatives which actively involves the local community and brings residents together. It is not just the Blue House project that is reaching out. Many of the retailers, galleries and bars that have sprung up in the area have made Wan Chai their location of choice because of the  authenticity, historic charm and pleasant neighbourhood atmosphere which they are keen to keep. 
The government should stop creating the conditions and allowing high rise towers to be built in historic districts. Experience in other Asian cities and around the world show that when the government keeps the unique urban fabric intact, the community will take care of itself. 

Download our iDiscover Wan Chai Walk and explore this vibrant district!