Lecturer, Division of Architectural Conservation Programmes,
Faculty of Architecture, HKU
M. Sc. (Urban Planning), 2002
There are few cities in the world like Yangon. For more than half a century, the economic isolation imposed by Myanmar’s military junta preserved the city as a time capsule. Though dilapidated, its rich colonial-era urban fabric had been preserved, recalling the days when Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) was a major hub of the British empire. With Myanmar’s recent political and economic liberalisation, however, much of that heritage is under threat, as roads are widened and old buildings are knocked down for new development.
Hugo Chan and other conservationists are doing their best to channel this growth into a more sustainable path. Chan is the co-author of the Yangon Heritage Strategy, which offers the city a framework for development that will allow it to grow and prosper without sacrificing its heritage or quality of life. By identifying its historic urban fabric as its key international calling card — the thing that makes Yangon unique in a world of lookalike cities — the strategy outlines ways public space can be improved, the city can be made more resilient to climate change, residents can be given access to quality housing and services, and new development can occur in harmony with the city’s heritage.