The modern history of Yangon can be traced through its colonial architecture. From the monumental former Reserve Bank of India, which records every step of the country's fiscal history, to the now derelict Pegu Club, once the favoured watering hole for officers of the British colonial government, each building has a story to tell.
The buildings have survived war, natural disaster, and numerous changes of ownership. Many have been repurposed over the years. What was once the headquarters of a pioneering 19th century Scottish trading firm is now an embassy, an ostentatious private mansion has become an art school, and a former department store later used as a government ministry stands empty. Whatever their current-day use, the represent a unique legacy; the sheer density of surviving colonial-era structures - whether they be rows of humble shop houses or grand edifices of Empire - is unparalleled in Southeast Asia.
Today the biggest threat to these buildings is neglect and lack of protection. In recent years they have become increasingly vulnerable. In 2005, when the government moved to the new capital of Naypidaw, it abandoned many of its ministerial offices or left them only partially in use. Many were also badly damaged during Cyclone Nargis in 2008. As the country opens up to private investment and tourism, the buildings are in danger of falling prey to property developers as most occupy prime plots in the city centre.
30 HERITAGE BUILDINGS OF YANGON, published by Serindia together with the Association of Myanmar Architects (AMA), focuses on a selection of 30 key buildings and examines their past, present and future. Piecing together the often forgotten history of each building has involved delving into out of print books, company records, old city directories, newspaper archives and people's memories. Published in both Burmese and English language editions, this book aims to contribute to the collective conversation about the social and economic potential of Yangon's colonial-era heritage in the hope that the city's architectural past can become a vibrant and sustainable part of its future.
Giving a talk and Q & A will be a distinguished panel :
- Dr. Thant Myint-U, historian and founder of the Yangon Heritage Trust
- Dr. Ian Morley, Asst. Professor, Urban History, Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Daw Moe Moe Lwin, Association of Myanmar Architects
- Alfred Birnbaum, writer/Historic Walks in Yangon.
Issues concerning the history, preservation, funding, and future of colonial-era buildings on Yangon will be presented and discussed, and to mark the release of the new book by the Association of Myanmar Architects.
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