Architecture, Modern


Architecture, Modern
   The history of modern architecture in Burma can be said to have begun after the British occupied Rangoon (Yangon) in 1852, following the Second Anglo-Burmese War, and built a new city based on Western and British Indian design. A rectangular, east-west grid of streets that became Rangoon's central business district and the location for many government buildings was laid out around the Sule Pagoda. In contrast with traditional architecture, the British made extensive use of brick and masonry, although many colonial-era houses were made of teak. The most common type of European residence in suburban or rural areas was the bungalow, a British Indian design, with a single storey, veranda, and low-pitched roof.
   Although generally fireproof, the larger colonial buildings built of brick or stone were not really suited for the tropical climate, providing poor ventilation. Many of the most prominent-including the Strand Hotel, Secretariat (now Ministers' Building), Rangoon General Hospital, and Port Authority building in central Rangoonreflected Victorian or Edwardian rather than indigenous design, but Rangoon's central railway station and the Municipal Corporation (City Hall), designed by U Tin in the early 20th century, used Burmese motifs, especially the traditional pyat-that or tiered roof. In densely populated downtown areas, such as those of Rangoon and Moulmein (Mawlamyine), the typical building was a three- or fourstory row house with a shop on the ground floor and dwellings above, usually with a stucco façade, much like shop houses found in Singapore or Malaya. In hill stations, such as Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) and Kalaw, guest houses, "chummeries" (bachelor quarters for British company employees), and other buildings were faithfully designed to evoke, for Europeans fleeing the lowland hot season, the atmosphere of "home." An outstanding example is Maymyo's mockScottish Candacraig (Thiri Myaing) Hotel. Functional, "international" design was used in many postindependence buildings, including the terminal of Mingaladon International Airport and newer buildings on the Main Campus of Rangoon (Yangon) University, such as the university library. However, the socialist era of Ne Win (1962-1988) saw little new construction, especially in urban areas, and existing buildings were poorly maintained. One of the best examples of socialist-era architecture is the huge building housing the now inoperative Pyithu Hluttaw, west of Rangoon's People's Park.
   Following the establishment of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in September 1988 and the opening of the economy to foreign investment, the architecture of urban areas, especially Rangoon and Mandalay, was transformed. During the 1990s, new hotels, office buildings, and shopping centers sprang up, very similar in functional, profit-oriented design to those found in cities like Bangkok or Singapore. A few (e.g., the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel) made effective use of traditional materials and motifs. Post1988 government buildings, such as the new National Museum and Defense Services Museum, tend to be utilitarian. In suburban areas of Rangoon and other cities, the design of housing developments for the wealthy are similar to those found in other parts of Southeast Asia or even Southern California.
   The Yangon City Development Committee maintains a list of 189 historic sites that cannot be demolished, but the profit motive has resulted in the tearing down of many others, especially in the old downtown area. In Mandalay, the colonial-era zeigyo (open air market) was demolished and replaced by a three-story enclosed structure of Chinese design. The haw of the sawbwa of Keng Tung, inspired by traditional Shan and Indian Muslim designs, was the most remarkable example of modern Shan palace design until the SLORC demolished it in 1991, replacing it with a tourist hotel.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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