Current Watch Site

« Back


Yangon, Myanmar

A hundred years ago, Yangon was one of the leading trade cities of Asia, home to people from across the globe. Today in historic downtown Yangon, alongside ancient Buddhist pagodas and monasteries are churches of various denominations, over a dozen mosques, a Hindu Parsi and a Sikh temple, a Jewish synagogue, and the country’s only Armenian church. This religious heritage is complemented by the largest collection of late-nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century colonial architecture in Southeast Asia. The dynamic between this rich built environment and the diverse population of the city has created a unique cultural melting pot. Yangon is also a place of greenery enriched by huge trees, placid lakes, and significant parkland areas composed of wide streets and tree-lined boulevards. Beyond neglected grandeur, and unlike the major cities of neighboring countries, Yangon is still a spacious, low-rise city that retains features essential to its future as a burgeoning metropolis.

Following the country’s emergence from isolation under military dictatorship and new foreign investment opportunities, a rush of development now imperils Yangon’s unique urban landscape. Modernizing the city while protecting and promoting its tangible and intangible heritage represents a key challenge. Beautiful, century-old residential and commercial buildings, dilapidated from long neglect, are being torn down at an alarming rate. Significant heritage buildings are being replaced with poorly designed structures that fail to integrate within the historic context. Invaluable views are also being forfeited to new, high-rise developments, and sumptuous government-owned buildings have fallen further into disrepair since the regime moved the administrative capital to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005. At the same time, the conditions in Yangon offer opportunities to frame heritage conservation in a new era of sustainability concerns and a newly emerging modern city. Heritage conservation can serve as a vital component in economic, environmental, and social policy. Inclusion on the Watch seeks to promote a thoughtful and well balanced integration of cultural resources and new development as part of Yangon’s public policy, so as to build the foundation for a dynamic urban life and landscape.



Download a 2014 Watch poster of this site (see download instructions).

Yangon Historic City Center
The Sule Pagoda, with the Yangon City Hall in the foreground, 2011
Yangon Historic City Center
Interior of the Pegu Club, one of the oldest surviving British colonial buildings in Yangon, 2011
Yangon Historic City Center
A deteriorating building on Yangon's Maha Bandula Street, 2011