Saving Yangon’s Architectural Icons

Saving Yangon's Architectural Icons
Sakura Tower, downtown Yangon’s tallest building, is emblematic of the development frenzy that’s overtaken Myanmar’s cultural hub since 2010, when the country began opening up politically and economically / © CHIEN-CHI CHANG

Through six decades of assault—the bombing of Yangon (Rangoon, as it was then called) during World War II, two military coups, a half century of isolation, and devastation by Cyclone Nargis in 2008—the apartment building on Upper Pansodan endured, its graceful arches and colorful patios sacrificing little of their elegance and charm to the torments of time, nature, and repression.

Then in 2013, three years into Myanmar‘s unprecedented political and economic opening up, the building succumbed to a force that proved too great to resist: development. (See “Myanmar’s Tourism Boom Endangers Fragile Ecosystems.”)

Construction workers took sledgehammers to it, until all that remained was a gaping hole in the downtown streetscape. Makeshift wooden scaffolding on the site portends the future: a bland 12-story condominium. []