Development risks Rangoon’s architectural heritageBy Asia Sentinel Oct 12, 2013 10:34AM UTC
World Monuments Fund says development must slow down in Rangoon writes Andrew D. Kaspar, The Irrawaddy for Asia Sentinel.
Rangoon’s (also known as Yangon) architectural heritage has been recognized by the World Monuments Fund, which on Oct. 8 put Burma’s largest city on its “Watch” list of places “at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change.”
In a counterargument to the largely positive narrative that has accompanied Burma’s re-engagement with the West, the conservation group said Rangoon’s religious and colonial-era sites are threatened by commercial interests intent on bringing high-rises and other modern development to a city long neglected by the former military regime—and outside investors.
“Beautiful, century-old residential and commercial buildings, dilapidated from long neglect, are being torn down at an alarming rate,” said the US-based Fund, which releases an updated Watch list biannually.
Boasting Southeast Asia’s single largest collection of surviving colonial architecture, Rangoon’s low-rise skyline stands in contrast to regional capitals such as Jakarta and Singapore, where skyscrapers have sprung up amid economic boom times. Colonialism’s architectural legacy has been replaced by glass and steel in much of the region, but decades of isolation and economic stagnation have spared many of the late 18th and early 19th century buildings in Rangoon.
That doesn’t mean they are in good shape, however, with most of the city’s colonial buildings in varying states of disrepair.
While the Fund says it has put US$54 million toward conservation efforts globally and helped to steer nearly $200 million in additional third-party funding to projects, no money will go immediately to programs in Rangoon.
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