Polk, Squire & Yangon

I was in Yangon in November 2019 to present on modern architecture in post-independence Yangon. In what is the first post in ages to grace this neglected blog, you can find details and a link to download the presentation after the jump.

The organizers of seam encounters kindly invited me to speak for the Yangon part of their program to better understand the dissemination of modern architectural ideas to the region.

The research also took place in other cities in the region, including Singapore, Phnom Penh and Jakarta. It was coordinated by SBCA, an urban research office from Berlin.

I gave a 20-minute talk on two foreign architects and their work in post-independence Yangon, i.e. Benjamin Polk and Raglan Squire. I have learnt about their biographies and their designs through the work on the Yangon Architectural Guide, widely documented on this blog.

The presentation I gave speaks for itself (download it here) and I don’t need to summarize it here beyond my personal conclusion that I would love to write a book about these two men (and perhaps adding a third one to it in the architect of the Soviet Inya Lake Hotel).

I think there is relatively little interest in them in Myanmar because they don’t fit easily into the narrative of post-independence nation building. There are arguably also some Burmese architects that entered the fray later who deserve equal attention when it comes to modern architecture and its adaptation in a Myanmar context.

However, weaving these foreign architects’ biographies together would present a unique opportunity to recount this very turbulent episode of Myanmar (architectural) history.

The lecture and trip to Yangon was a welcome reconnection with this city. The Goethe Institute (pictured above) played host to the lectures. I was the first to go and had more than 100 people in the audience. I must say that having taught at TUJ for three years certainly helped with speaking in front of such large a crowd, I was markedly less nervous!

Now that I am based out of nearby Bangkok, I will try and get the second edition of the guide back on the agenda.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *