Yangon’s colonial heritage under threatBy Asia Sentinel Oct 07, 2012 8:30PM UTC
Two irreplaceable buildings appear to face significant harm
Despite the efforts of a wide range of international and local supporters seeking to save them, the irreplaceable colonial buildings that make up much of the center of Rangoon appear to be facing increasing threat.
Two colonial buildings in Burma’s former capital – also known as Yangon — the 101-year-old High Court and the Police Commissioner’s Office, are up for sale to a consortium of Chinese and local developers despite the imposition in June of a 50-year moratorium on the demolition of buildings older than 50 years.
Asia Sentinel reported in March that the stock of colonial buildings, the most extensive in Asia, were under growng threat as Burma, also known as Myanmar, opens to development after 60 years in isolation. There are 189 listed buildings and 11 ancient monuments, according to the Yangon Heritage Trust. Most suffer from long neglect that started when the British left the country in 1948. Many are in danger of demolition because they are so much in need of repair. The trust has compiled another list of another 2,500 significant buildings in deteriorating condition that require protection, a bigger stock of architecturally significant buildings that exist anywhere in Asia.
According to the Heritage trust, the 189 include the old offices of Hong Kong-Shanghai Bank, Lloyds, Standard and Charted, Thomas Cook, Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, Bombay Burma Trading Company as well as the Strand Hotel itself, which has been restored into an expensive boutique hostelry.
Other buildings included the badly deteriorated all-teak Pegu Club—where Rudyard Kipling spent the night before writing “Mandalay”—and the grand red-brick Secretariat, with its Venetian towers and elegant porticos.
Already in disrepair from decades of neglect, the government-owned buildings fell into even worse shape when the junta that formerly controlled the country built an entirely new capital five hours north of Yangon in Naypyidaw and left in 2005. Now, abandoned and rotting, they are subject to the tropical climate and voracious termites.
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