Yangon heritage buldings – Kyi Kyi Sway, Myanmar

“Yangon presents itself as a city time forgot, but I’d say it’s a city that captured time ” , Ian Marley described Yangon like this concerned with the heritage buildings of Yangon. She is an urban historian at Chinese University of Hong Kong.  You would know she is right when you practically see in Yangon!


Yangon captured the British colonial era time ( 1885 to 1945 for the whole Myanmar ). You could see the ancient architectural valuable design on most of the buildings in Yangon. You would get the smell of colonial era if you are walking in downtown of Yangon. Almost all of the Heritage buildings are standing with the greatness of past through the neglected by government. The heritage buildings of Yangon are now facing the problem of decreasing value day by day. Most of the public heritage buildings are being empty. There is no regular maintenance or repairing in right way for them. These buildings are almost neglected by the government. When the capital of Myanmar shifted to Nay Pyi Taw at the end of 2005, ministries and government departments left these state-owned buildings empty. They are not only empty also taking careless except securing. Dr. Thant Myint U, Cambridge educated historian and founder of Yangon Heritage Trust, described in the book called 30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon as: “ Yangon’s unique architectural heritage and invaluable collection of 19th and 20th century buildings are today in peril, from the effects of long neglect, as well as the consequences of recent commercial development ” . Architects estimate that, without immediate attention, the buildings now have a limited lifespan for between 10 to 30 years. Not only the people also the government are still less awareness for their invaluable heritage buildings. Some heritage buildings are shifted to business buildings. These buildings are repaired in the wrong way that leads to reduce their value too much because of the less knowledge of architects and government. The value of buildings are decreasing day by day because of not only being neglected also being maintained and repaired in the wrong way. Government and most Myanmar people are so less awareness and knowledge on them. How to use these heritages in promoting Myanmar is very important for Myanmar’s historical future. Ian Marley also described these heritage buildings as: “ the last example of a colonial core still intact in Asia ”. These buildings are not only the part of the history of Myanmar people also a part of the British-colonial history. They are the last things which can show the British colonial image in Asia. And then these heritage buildings are like the friends of old generation and like the teacher or grandfather for young generation who lived long in Yangon. These buildings survived with Yangon people through the war, changes of politics, serious strikes, environment changing effects, Nargis cyclone in 2008, and etc… Yangon people memory blood is flowing in the soul of these heritage buildings. Since these buildings’ architectural style is so unique, they could be very attractive for the tourists. The amount of tourists visiting around the downtown of Yangon has become rise and rise since after 2010, Myanmar opened her door back. These heritage buildings are behind Shwedagon Pagoda to visit worth coming to Yangon. Most of the heritage buildings are situated in downtown area of Yangon.l In 1945, the US serviceman and author John L.Christian described some of these heritage buildings in his book ‘ Burma ’ as: “ Some of its building such as the Port ( Authority Building ), Irrawaddy Flotilla Company’s headquarters, the Imperial Bank of India, the National Bank of India, were as modern as any to be in an American or European city of the same size ”. Those buildings are situated in downtown area and now being government departments and banks living. The way of maintaining them is not enough well and they are not very significant today. But I can see the greatness of past whenever I look at them because of their architectural design. The most potential situation of empty public heritage buildings is to be hotel, museum, venue, or library. The potential situation is still silent. Their situating in downtown and crowded area attracts local business men and foreign investors. People are watching what the government would let these buildings happen in future. Association of Myanmar Architects selects some 30 heritage buildings. They select them primarily focuses on public buildings. Private residence and religious structures have not included. AMA and Serinda Publication publish about these 30 heritage buildings summary book in 2012. That book is called 30 Heritage buildings of Yangon. It is a very useful source concerning Yangon heritage buildings for heritage lovers and tourists. Later 2010, Dr. Thant Myint U appears for neglected and hiding heritages of Yangon. He is also the founder of Yangon Heritage Trust. He speaks so loud and so effective for Heritage Buildings of Yangon. His organization YHT is standing and running for invaluable heritages left in Yangon. Dr Thant Myint U and his organization YHT could make people aware of the invaluable heritages of Yangon. His voice for Yangon heritage buildings is separating all around the world. YHT and Dr. Thant Myint U are just non government organization. There is no authority in their hands to make the heritages of Yangon more significant . All they can do is to make people and government aware of the values of heritages of Yangon. But for people, Dr. Thant Myint U and YHT is more reliable concerned with the heritages of Yangon than government. Heritage Buildings of Yangon still need the government’s help to protect and keep their invaluable existence in better way. They seem begging people’s awareness to protect themselves for Myanmar historical future. In the book,30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon, Dr. Thant Myint U described as: “ Time is running out…..unless something is done immediately, Yangon will otherwise meet the fate of other Asian cities that realized too late the Heritage they had lost. If Yangon’s architectural heritage is destroyed, a big part of its legacy as a cosmopolitan, multi-faith and multi-ethnic city will be lost as well ”.

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