Preserving Heritage Buildings in Yangon: History and Challenges


Evening discussion with Dr. Thant Myint-U, Yangon Heritage Trust; Dr. Ian Morley, Chinese University of Hong Kong; Sarah Rooney, author; Moe Moe Lwin, Association of Myanmar Architects

The modern history of Yangon can be traced through its colonial architecture. From the monumental former Reserve Bank of India, which records every step of the country's fiscal history, to the now-derelict Pegu Club, once the favored watering hole for officers of the British colonial government, each building has a story to tell. These buildings have survived war, natural disaster, numerous changes of ownership, and increasing urbanization. The sheer density of surviving colonial-era structures is unparalleled in Southeast Asia.

A panel of experts on Myanmar will piece together the forgotten history of these heritage buildings and address the current challenges in attempting to make the city’s rich architectural past a vibrant and sustainable part of its future. This discussion coincides with the Hong Kong launch of the book 30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon: Inside the City that Captured Time, which will be available for sale at the event.

Dr. Thant Myint-U is a historian, the founder and chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust, and the author of three books, including the critically acclaimed and best-selling The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma and Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia.  He is also a member of the (Myanmar) National Economic and Social Advisory Council, the vice-chairman of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on South East Asia, and a member of the Fund Board of the (Myanmar) Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund. Educated at Harvard and Trinity College, Cambridge, Dr. Thant Myint-U received his PhD in history from Cambridge. In 1994 he was elected a Fellow of Trinity College and taught history there until 2000. He served on UN peacekeeping operations, in Cambodia (1992-3) and the former Yugoslavia (1994 and 1996). From 2000-2007 he served with the UN Secretariat in New York, as a Senior Officer in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General and as the Chief of Policy Planning in the Department of Political Affairs. He has held visiting fellowships at Harvard, the International Peace Academy in New York, and the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Dr. Ian Morley is an Assistant Professor of Urban History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has published widely on the design of built environments, particularly the civic design of settlements in Britain during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Dr. Morley is also interested in historic and modern cities in Asia. He has participated in television documentaries on the Taipei 101 Tower for The Discovery Channel and Voom!, as well as been interviewed by various media organizations about British colonial architecture in Rangoon. He is the Book Review Editor for Urban Morphology: Journal of the International Seminar on Urban Form, a council member of the International Planning History Society, and an editorial board member of the journal Planning Perspectives. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sydney and University College Dublin, and in July 2012 was a Visiting Scholar on the urbanism program held by the Universidade Estudual de Maringá and Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil. He is currently researching American imperialism and city planning in the Philippines in the early 1900s, and the impact of American urbanism in the Asia-Pacific during the early decades of the 20th century.

Moe Moe Lwin was trained in architecture and in settlement planning and design in the Rangoon Institute of Technology. She went on to receive her MSc in Urban Planning from the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok in 1991. She has practiced as an architect for 22 years, and since 2001, has been a Partner Architect at her own firm Living Design Architects and Planners. Her projects include houses, showrooms, hotels and resorts, supermarkets and real estate. Since 1999, she has also co-operated with Sar-Oak-Zay Publishing House to publish a variety of books including an art and architecture magazine Ywet-Nu-Wai from 2002-2008. Ms. Moe Moe Lwin has been General Secretary of Association of Myanmar Architects since 2009 and was recently assigned as Acting Director of the newly founded Yangon Heritage Trust.


Sarah Rooney is a Bangkok-based researcher and writer. Born in the Philippines and raised in Thailand, she has a Master’s degree in Asian History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at London University. She has worked as a consultant for numerous international organizations in Thailand and Myanmar, namely The Asia Foundation and the United Nations World Food Programme. She is, most recently, the author of 30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon.

Event Details

Mon 10 Sep 2012
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Buy Tickets
$180 Asia Society members / full-time students; $230 non-members
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