Yangon: Are Megastructures Changing The City?

It is no news to urban planners and architects today that mixed-used megastructures are a type of development that embraces the future of community, economy, and efficiency. From a developer’s points of view, mixed-use buildings offer the greatest opportunity for revenue in sales, rent, and transportation giving it powerful backing and support to be built. Quoting from Frank Ricks [LRK Architects] in his commentary on the effect of mixed-use development in general, he says, “… regardless of size, mixed use works best when it creates a vibrancy that was absent in the neighbourhood”1 The idea that mixed-use developments create anew community, or perhaps a city of its own, is a phenomenon that comes out of the contrasts of spaces, programs, and people. In Yangon, one of the new forms that are being planned involve investments of mixed-use developments. One of notable examples is a development in downtown Yangon called Junction City right outside and next to the remnant of the old colonial fabric of the city.

The Junction City project started construction in 2014 developed by the Shwe Taung Group from Myanmar in partnership with Keppel Land from Singapore. It is a 6.5-acre site on corner of Bogyoke Aung San and Shwedagon Pagoda roads and is a US$300 million project that has sparked great international interest.2 The project encompasses a shopping mall, office tower, a luxury hotel, and serviced apartments holding over 348 hotels rooms, 260 apartments, 260,000 square metres of shopping space, and 33,400 square metres of office space.3 It is a newly opened megastructure that boasts new spaces of entertainment for the city that has not been seen at that scale. The Junction City Shopping Centre has the largest food court and Cineplex in Myanmar as well as outlets of retail brands such as Coach, Hugo Boss, Versace, Love Moschino and more.4 In short, the project brings a new dimension to downtown Yangon and could be understood as a magnet for tourists and upper-middle class citizens of Yangon.

At the same time, there are other mixed-use projects that are set to be built in Yangon from Japan’s Mitsubushi Corporation5 as well as Korea’s POSCO Daweoo Holdings.6 It is evident that mixed-use buildings are a high interest for foreign investors in development.

As we think about what these structures mean for the city and its existing fabric, it is not hard to see the irrelevance in these megastructures to its surroundings in culture, space, or program. Like the former quote from Frank Ricks, mixed-use developments work best when they create a neighbourhood that was absent. However, the neighbourhood that surrounds this project is perhaps one of Yangon’s richest portals to its architectural history. Spaces in Yangon are without a doubt being gentrified, one by one, project by project, through a scope of power that does not entirely reflect the holistic needs of the city. Though these projects can perhaps drive in enormous wealth to certain stakeholders of the city, it is important to question how these projects change the city.



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