Turquoise Mountain is now working to restore Yangon, Myanmar’s colonial heritage

A hundred years ago, Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) was the beating heart of Myanmar—the current name for Burma that was imposed by the oil company-backed military dictatorship that took over the country in 1962—is a Southeast Asian city unlike any other.

It remains Myanmar’s largest city. Leafy, pedestrian avenues drew visitors and locals through street cafes and vendors into the grand columns of the city’s downtown department stores and galleries.

These vast buildings and the spaces between them provided homes for the work, leisure and life of the city.

Turquoise Mountain—the non-profit whose restorative work in Afghanistan has been featured here in REVITALIZATION—has just restored and moved into new offices in Yangon.

Turquoise Mountain is working with the government and local partners to restore this heritage landscape and protect it for the future.

Restoring Turquoise Mountain’s new offices.

At the request of the Myanmar government, Turquoise Mountain is also undertaking the revitalization of the Old Tourist Burma Building (pictured at top of page) in Yangon’s historic downtown, to create a publically accessible landmark at the heart of the city.

There is no other place in downtown Yangon where you can enjoy this kind of view of the city’s colonial heritage,” said Harry Wardill, Myanmar country director of Turquoise Mountain, a U.K.-based nongovernmental organization that undertakes the restoration of historic buildings and encourages traditional crafts.

In 1947, the building was converted for use by the government, initially housing civil servants administering a rations scheme, and eventually passed to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, which used the ground floor as a visitor information center called Tourist Burma — the name by which the building is now generally known.

Since 2005 it has been empty and rotting following the government’s shift from Yangon, to Naypyidaw, the new capital of Myanmar.

Turquoise Mountain has delivered Myanmar’s first building conservation project completed to international standards in the heart of Yangon’s historic Downtown, at 491-501 Merchant Street.

Turquoise Mountain worked with the diverse community within the building to restore it, while training over 250 people in restoration economy skills.

After a couple of decades, during which Yangon’s priceless collection of colonial architecture seemed destined for demolition, the restoration of the Tourist Burma building indicates that the supporters of historic preservation and urban revitalization are making significant progress.

All photos courtesy of TJ Webster / Turquoise Mountain.

See Turquoise Mountain website.

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