News / Asia

Rangoon's Historic Buildings Face Threat of Development

Rangoon's Historic Buildings Face Development Threati
X
January 11, 2013 1:20 PM
Rangoon's downtown is an architectural time capsule, filled with distinctive century-old colonial-style buildings, many severely weathered by the tropical climate. Now that the country is opening up and new money and developers are coming in, the buildings could be knocked down to make way for skyscrapers and shopping malls. Will Rangoon choose modern replacements or its historic architecture?
Rangoon's Historic Buildings Face Threat of Development
VOA News
Rangoon's downtown is an architectural time capsule, filled with distinctive century-old colonial-style buildings, many severely weathered by the tropical climate. Now that the country is opening up and new money and developers are coming in, the buildings could be knocked down to make way for skyscrapers and shopping malls. Will Rangoon choose modern replacements or its historic architecture?
 
One building in downtown Rangoon was built 98 years ago by Indian traders, seized by the government in the 1960s and then abandoned several years ago when the government moved the capital to Naypyitaw.
 
Now the cavernous mixed-use structure is used for everything from legal offices to government housing.

The once majestic marble entrance opens to a cob-webbed wrought-iron elevator shaft and an elevator that hasn't worked in decades.
 
The building is so poorly maintained that most taps leak, and its inner courtyard serves as a garbage dump.
 
After surviving two world wars, decades of military rule, and a devastating cyclone, it may finally fall victim to Burma’s building binge.
 
Daw Gyi has been living here for five years. Mom, daughter, grandchild, daughter’s husband. The government provides the family with free housing because the daughter is a civil servant.  Daw Gyi worries about eviction. "It's old, it's not beautiful, somewhat ramshackle. It's not like when it was new. I think it would look good if you renovated it, the floor is all still good," she added.
 
Property prices have doubled in Rangoon in the last year alone, and the government has been selling off property to address its growing debt. Many of the buildings, some of which had been condemned, have already been torn down, displacing residents like Daw Gyi.
 
The Yangon Heritage Trust is one organization trying to assure that Rangoon's historic buildings survive the threats of modernity, but the group has not yet been able to secure actual legal protection for any of the buildings. Moe Moe is the co-director.
 
"We are racing against time," Moe Moe said. "If they have the foresight, they should realise by saving the heritage it will making more money or more attracting to the investors, or attracting tourists."
 
Some entrepreneurs have recognized the value of historic buildings, and have gone through the painstaking and expensive process of renovating these old buildings as a way of preserving them.
 
Anthony Alderson owns a bar in an old two-story building he refurbished on 50th Street in downtown Rangoon. He says he has had to wait for 15 years for his investment to start paying off, and thinks there simply isn't enough return on investment for other businesses to follow suit.
 
“It's an added value to any tourist coming to the country to go inside old buildings because they've seen them from the outside they often don't go inside. A lot of these smaller buildings will come down and give way to, unfortunately, a sky city, as it were. I think Yangon [Rangoon] is going to grow upwards rather than outwards," Alderson stated. "I think you'll see in this particular area in five years this will be one funny little building in amongst a lot of towers.”
 
Unless Burma's more monied businessmen can take the plunge to make enormous investments for sentimental value, Southeast Asia may lose its time capsule.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs