The Uniqueness of Downtown Yangon

If one and only one city in Asia with its historic core largely intact were to be pointed out, it would to be Yangon. Yangon has thousands of historic properties that date before 1950; has the highest number of colonial period buildings in Southeast Asia. But the uniqueness of downtown Yangon comes from its longer history, which has left it with very distinct and diverse cultural and physical characteristics. Chinese, Muslim and Armenian traders were there long before the British arrived. Religious sites reflect this diversity, with a Synagogue, Buddhist Monasteries, Stupas and Temples; Mosques; Christian Churches; Hindu, Jain and Chinese Temples. Residents of different income levels and businesses of different types co-exist side by side. The absence of cultural, social and economic segregation makes downtown Yangon special and should be safeguarded. Yangon downtown has sufficient critical mass to attract a variety of investors with evidence of recent investment in rehabilitation of historic properties, with expected buy-in from local property owners and tenants, developers and construction companies. Although both authenticity and integrity have to some extent been compromised, it still reflects the UNESCO World Heritage Convention Operational Guidelines – “The respect due to all cultures requires that cultural heritage must be considered and judged primarily within the cultural contexts to which it belongs”.

Su Su was born in Yangon, and remains fascinated by its historic buildings and heritage. Her PhD dissertation (Yangon Technological University, 2006) examined the urban management system of the historic city centre. Her post-doctoral research work, at the Vienna University of Technology, was on the heritage management system of Vienna and Budapest. She hopes to undertake further research on new historic urban landscape (HUL) concepts, especially on those reflecting on historic city centres of Southeast Asian Cities. She is now Professor and Head of Department of Architecture, Mandalay Technological University and leading projects on heritage and urbanism. She participated in preparation of “Management Parts of Nomination Dossier and Property Management Plan of Pyu Ancient Cities”, “Myanmar National Building Code”, “Technical Working Group II Architecture and Urban Design” and is currently joining the team working for “Management Framework of Potential World Heritage – Bagan”.