1) Is YHT a statutory body? No. YHT has no statutory responsibility, but provides guidance to the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) upon request when alterations to significant heritage places are under consideration. YCDC is the regulatory planning authority in Yangon.
2) Where does YHT receive its funding from? YHT is a nonprofit organisation that relies on private contributions from local businesses, individuals both inside and outside Myanmar, as well as from international governments and organizations.
3) How do I find out who owns a heritage building? Many privately owned buildings in Yangon are under legal disputes centred on ownership. This is because property ownership has been fluid in Yangon for the last fifty years. This has been compounded by the nationalisation of private property in the 1960s, complicated inheritance issues, and the fact that different people can own the land and the building—the result is a very challenging mix. The best thing to do is approach a local legal firm to make inquiries around ownership with the building’s current occupants.
4) Where can I find a list of heritage buildings which owners may want to sell or lease? There is no such list. Once you have found a building you are interested in follow the answer above to discover its ownership status.
5) Is YHT able to help me find an heritage building I can renovate? YHT does not maintain a list of heritage buildings that can be renovated. Our advice is to visit Yangon and spend a few days walking the city. Once you have a short list of buildings that fit your requirements, follow the steps in the answer above.
6) Is there any building/project that YHT is managing? YHT does not currently manage any building projects. Our role is as a public advocate raising awareness about the importance of Yangon’s unique urban heritage. In specific instances, such as the renovation of the historic U Thant House or the study of the Secretariat Building, YHT has performed an advisory role to ensure these places’ cultural heritage value is not damaged during new works.
7) Are there any heritage planning controls in Yangon? There are currently no formal heritage guidelines in Yangon. YHT is in the process of assisting in the preparation of these guidelines. The regulatory authorities can see the economic, cultural and liveability benefits of urban conservation in Yangon and are in support of YHT’s mission. YHT is regularly consulted about proposals to alter or demolish significant heritage properties.
8) Is YHT anti-development? YHT is not opposed to new development and is in favour of a fully modern Yangon with all the benefits that brings. YHT’s vision is for Yangon involves allowing the city to fully modernise while also conserving the urban heritage which makes it unique. This includes natural amenities like its lakes and waterfront, the views to and from Shwedagon and Sule pagodas as well as the diverse patchwork of buildings which make up Yangon’s cityscape. YHT believes that certain parts of Yangon are not appropriate for high rise development but is also advocating for other areas to be designated for this kind of new construction. That is part of what the Yangon zoning plan will help realize and regulate.
YHT also hopes to work closely with developers and businesspeople to renovate existing buildings downtown. It is far more environmentally responsible and ultimately less costly to renovate heritage properties than to knock them down and construct less durable buildings that ultimately have a short lifespan.
9) Why do we need to conserve the buildings and the cityscape? Why is this important? Yangon boasts one of the most spectacular and diverse urban cityscapes in Southeast Asia. It is one that includes pagodas, cathedrals, churches, mosques, temples, and even a synagogue. The city also retains one of the most complete ensembles of colonial architecture in the world and is endowed with splendid parks and lakes. There are many neighbouring centres such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur that have almost completely destroyed their historic cities. The first prime minister of Singapore has even said that one of their big mistakes was destroying all the colonial architecture of the city. If Yangon can develop into a modern city while protecting its existing assets, this will be the key step in becoming one of the most beautiful and liveable cities in Asia. This is important because heritage cities have huge economic potential in attracting innovative business from the tourism, design, cultural and arts sectors in ways that new, high rise cities do not- potentially this is worth billions. Properly conserving Yangon’s urban heritage will also have huge impacts on the lifestyle and health of its residents. Green cities with old fabric and engaging architecture have demonstrable benefits in terms of liveability that entirely new cities do not. Finally, integrating new developments sympathetically into Yangon’s urban heritage will allow one of the most historic and significant cities in Myanmar and the region to continue to be a resource for the Burmese people to connect with and understand their past through.
10) How many heritage buildings are standing in Yangon approximately and how many of them are our concern? There are 189 buildings on the official City list. However this list only covers Yangon’s publicly owned structures and religious monuments. YHT is undertaking an extensive survey and inventory program to document the complete urban architectural heritage of the city. This inventory will guide government policies that protect distinct historical and architectural neighbourhoods by creating heritage zones. The inventory will assist in documenting key architectural and historical periods of the city and serve as a database for further research into Yangon’s urban and social history.
11) What is the oldest building in Yangon? Shwedagon is the oldest structure in Yangon, and has existed for over 2600 years. The famous pagoda is the spiritual heart of the city and is believed to enshrine relics of the Buddha. The oldest buildings in post-colonial Yangon date back to the mid-late 19th century (for example, the former Burma Railways Company building originally constructed in 1877, and the Armenian Church constructed in 1862).