Friday, November 14, 2014

The Race to Save Burma's Architecture

Wisdom Quarterly; Alex Palmer National Geographic (, Nov. 12, 2014
Rangoon, Burma's former capital, with golden stupa in the distance (Chien-Chi Chang).
The Race to Save Burma's Architecture
Locator map of Myanmar (Burma), locating Yangon (Rangoon).As the nation opens up, preservationists are rushing to document and retain cultural icons from old (Colonial British-era) Rangoon, Burma, renamed by the dictatorship Yangon, Myanmar, which also relocated the capital to mysterious Nay Pyi Daw.
RANGOON, Burma - When Barack Obama visits Myanmar for a security conference today, he is unlikely to notice the vacant lot at 233-235 Upper Pansodan Street, in the heart of Yangon's chaotic downtown. But to the residents of Burma's largest city, the fate of the gracious structure that once stood there is emblematic of the nation's recent burst of "progress."

Children turn a factory construction site into a playground.
Construction site becomes playground.
Through six decades of assault -- the bombing of Yangon (Rangoon, as it was then called) during World War II, two military coups, a half century of isolation, and devastation by Cyclone Nargis in 2008 -- the apartment building on Upper Pansodan endured, its graceful arches and colorful patios sacrificing little of their elegance and charm to the torments of time, nature, and repression.
Then in 2013, three years into Burma's unprecedented political and economic opening up, the building succumbed to a force that proved too great to resist: development. (See "Myanmar's Tourism Boom Endangers Fragile Ecosystems").

Construction workers took sledgehammers to it, until all that remained was a gaping hole in the downtown streetscape. Makeshift wooden scaffolding on the site portends the future: a bland 12-story condominium. More

No comments: