Above: Repurposed colonial building in Yangon

Yangon’s Colonial Heritage

Some Asian cities have chosen to preserve the buildings erected during their colonial periods. These are viewed as remnants of a long-vanished era, aspects of history that can now be appreciated for their architectural quality or utility. Elsewhere there is little or no reverence for the past, and Victorian structures are routinely torn down to make way for undistinguished concrete towers. Yangon now has this choice to make. The city was planned by the British in 1852, and its colonial core is virtually as it was at independence in 1948, with an array of grand brick buildings, some relatively well-preserved, some in fairly advanced stages of decay.

Pressure for rapid development is intense. The Yangon Heritage Trust was established in 2012 by Harvard-educated architect Dr. Thant Myint-U. It is involved in urban heritage planning as well as specific conservation projects. The YHT organizes daily walking tours of downtown Yangon — which I strongly recommend; many of them start at the YHT’s office on lower Pansodan Street.

Join Andrew Harper today to continue reading our exclusive content.