Happy New Year! This blog has become slightly inactive over the past months as the bulk of my writing takes place inside the manuscript for the forthcoming Yangon Architectural Guide. To wrap up the research for the book, I was in Burma for a few weeks in December.
New pedestrian overpass – Strand Road
Our meeting schedule featured local and foreign architects, the city’s development committee, Japanese aid agency JICA as well as the Yangon Heritage Trust. We benefited tremendously from the generous assistance of the local Goethe Institute, which did not only fund our travel, but also hosted us and several of our interview partners for dinners.
Yangon is in great flux. Akin to the country’s opening and reform process, which many believe to have stalled in 2014, the city’s transition is entering a rocky stage. Traffic congestion is the most visible symptom and has become noticeably worse since my visit last year, with much of the downtown area practically inaccessible during rush hour. Many mixed use projects have entered the construction stage and begin to visibly alter the city’s appearance. Plans exist to erect a tall flyover along Strand Road to alleviate traffic problems. The already built flyovers give a taste of how the urban fabric changes as a result.
Encouragingly, some heritage buildings have been renovated or are about to be. Some post-independence buildings are also being given a new lease of life. A new tramline chimes a hopeful bell with regards to public transport infrastructure. A zoning plan is about to be concluded, prohibiting further densification in the downtown area, effectively barring high-rise condominium developments. Plans to transform the Secretariat into a publicly accessible forum are beginning to take shape.