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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid