Turquoise Mountain and the educating the Public on Heritage conservation
Turquoise Mountain are an international NGOs whose aim is to ‘protect heritage and communities at risk around the world and to provide jobs, education, and a renewed sense of pride”¹. There inject themselves into communities that are at risk of permanently losing their heritage due to the volatile nature of their country. Beside Myanmar, they have also work in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
One of their prominent projects was the restoration of of ‘491-501 Merchant Street’ that sits on the richly historic aforementioned Merchant Street. A colonial-era residential building, the INGO was able to rejuvenate the building thanks to the major support of the local yet extremely diverse community of the area, especially from those who actually live within the premise.
Since the end of the totalitarian military regime in Myanmar in 2011, the Country has undergone and still is developing at a massive rate. With government backed foreign investors heavily pumping money into infrastructure projects, Merchant Street and its buildings have already been subjected to extensive razing and redeveloping. However with the current more lenient administration, there has be more conscious effort to control rapidity of growth, to slow down and progress with thoughtfulness towards the past. This is heavily thanks to the works of The Yangon Heritage Trust as previously mentioned, who collaborate extensively with the government on the future of urban development.
‘491-501’ underwent through a USD 325, 000 renovation and houses 80 residents, a noodle stall, bookseller, two newspaper-recycling operations, a barber, three printing services and a purveyor of monastic accessories all under one newly-refurbished roof ². The building was one of the lucky ones to have had enough wherewithal for project to be executed.
The Turquoise Mountain called it a ‘demonstration project’ ³ – by means of using the project the beginning of creating a successful culture of preservation and heritage pride within Yangon. The importance of this restoration project is beyond just rejuvenating the physical attributes of the building, but also creating awareness and educating the public on the importance of preserving historical structures. The building attracts attention and engages with the locals. For them to see such a building in such a new light, it is very much a new concept that an old building can be renewed without building a new building. Furthermore on a baser level, the new attractive quality of the building is bound to stir up the local industry nearby the building.
With the country being increasingly visited by tourists, locals businesses can utilize the renovated projects as a beacon of tourism- Downtown Yangon is heading towards the direction of being developed as a tourism hotspot.
Figure 1: Gacad, Romeo. 491-501 Merchant Street. Daily Mail AFP, England. Accessed 23 December 2017.
¹ “Turquoise Mountain Myanmar.” Turquoise Mountain. Accessed December 23, 2017. http://turquoisemountain.org/.
² AFP. “Rebirth of Yangon building points way for city’s crumbling heritage.” Mail Online. June 12, 2016. Accessed December 23, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3637395/Rebirth-Yangon-building-points-way-citys-crumbling-heritage.html.
³ AFP. “Rebirth of Yangon building points way for city’s crumbling heritage.” Mail Online. June 12, 2016. Accessed December 23, 2017.