A hundred years ago, Yangon was one of the leading trade cities of Asia, home to people from across the globe. Today in historic downtown Yangon, alongside ancient Buddhist pagodas and monasteries are churches of various denominations, over a dozen mosques, a Hindu Parsi and a Sikh temple, a Jewish synagogue, and the country’s only Armenian Church. This religious heritage is complemented by the largest collection of late-nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century colonial architecture in Southeast Asia. The dynamic between this rich built environment and the diverse population of the city has created a unique cultural melting pot. Yangon is also a place of greenery enriched by huge trees, placid lakes, and significant parkland areas composed of wide streets and tree-lined boulevards. Beyond neglected grandeur, and unlike the major cities of neighboring countries, Yangon is still a spacious, low-rise city that retains features essential to its future as a burgeoning metropolis.
Following the country’s emergence from isolation under military dictatorship and new foreign investment opportunities, a rush of development now imperils Yangon’s unique urban landscape. Modernizing the city while protecting and promoting its tangible and intangible heritage represents a key challenge. Beautiful, century-old residential and commercial buildings, dilapidated from long neglect, are being torn down at an alarming rate. Significant heritage buildings are being replaced with poorly designed structures that fail to integrate within the historic context. Invaluable views are also being forfeited to new, high-rise developments, and sumptuous government-owned buildings have fallen further into disrepair since the regime moved the administrative capital to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005.
At the same time, the conditions in Yangon offer opportunities to frame heritage conservation in a new era of sustainability concerns and a newly emerging modern city. Heritage conservation can serve as a vital component in economic, environmental, and social policy. Inclusion on the Watch seeks to promote a thoughtful and well balanced integration of cultural resources and new development as part of Yangon’s public policy, so as to build the foundation for a dynamic urban life and landscape.
Yangon City Hall
The City Hall building is considered to be a fine example of Myanmar architecture. The construction of this building started in 1926 and ended in 1936. The building is enlisted on the Yangon City Heritage List.This is located in downtown Yangon.
This is probably one of the well-preserved British colonial buildings in Yangon. The Customs House is located along the Strand Road where most colonial buildings stand today as colonial heritage sites.
High Court Building
Formerly known as the Parliament for Justice, this building was constructed in 1914, before World War I. In 1962, the Government turned it into a High Court Head Office.
Inland Water Transport Building
This building is one of the colonial buildings situated in downtown Yangon. IWT manages passenger cruises and cargo ships along the rivers in Myanmar.
The Strand Hotel is one of Southeast Asia’s grand colonial hotels. The Victorian-style hotel is located in Yangon, built in 1896 by Aviet and Tigran Sarkie, two of the Sarkies Brothers. The hotel, which opened in 1901, faces the Yangon River to its South.
Myanmar Port Authority Building
The unique preservation of Myanmar Port Authority was built in 1920. It was restored to her former beauty. It is one of the colonial buildings, situated in downtown Yangon.
Secretariat Buildings or Ministers’ Building
The Ministers’ Building (the Ministers’ Office); formerly The Secretariat or Secretariat Building is occupied an entire city block, bounded by Anawrahta Road to the north, Theinbyu Road to the east, Maha Bandoola Road to the south and Bo Aung Kyaw Street to the west in downtown Yangon. It was the home and administrative seat of British Burma and built in the late 1800s. The structure is more than 120 years old. It was where General Aung San and 6 cabinet ministers were assassinated on 19 July 1947. The building is currently on the Yangon City Heritage List and completely abandoned.