Construction materials
Prices in Yangon, November 2013
Compiled by Myat Noe and Mya Kay Khine Handmade brick (from Taikkyi) K90-100 per unit Machine-made brick K110 per unit Handmade brick K102-110 per unit Sand (smooth) K7000 per 100 cubic feet Sand (rough) K8000 per 100 cubic feet Pebble (simple) K58,000 per 100 cubic feet Pebble (bright white) K60,000 per 100 cubic feet Cement (Elephant) K58,000 per 50kg bag Galvanised roof (Elephant thick) K270 per foot Galvanised roof (Five Star) K330-340 per one foot This size ranges from 6 to 12 feet Galvanised roof (four angle colour) K500 per foot K520 per foot K570 per foot

What’s the deal with brokers?
Agents are an important link in the real estate chain, bringing together buyers and sellers and making sure deals are on the level

Open season: Govt budgets for road ahead


Photo:. www.fantasiprima.my.com


Editor Myo Lwin Sub-editors Wade Guyitt, Mya Kay Khine Soe Writers Aung Kyaw Nyunt, Myo Lwin, Mya Kay Khine, Wa Lone, Nyan Lynn Aung, Nandar Aung, Zon Pann Pwint, Aye Thidar Kyaw, Ei Ei Thu

Photographers Kaung Htet, Aung Htay Hlaing, Ko Taik Cover and design Tin Zaw Htway, Ko Pxyo, Khin Zaw, Ko Ko Zaw For enquiries myolwin@myanmartimes.com. mm

Ith Yangon’s real estate market booming, it’s not just the sellers who are turning a profit. Real estate agents – those in the middle, helping both sides close the deal – are also benefiting, although one negative side effect of the property gold rush, accredited agents say, is now everyone wants a piece of the action. That’s a bad thing for customers needing an experienced, steady hand, says U Aung Kyaw Moe, marketing manager at Estate Myanmar real estate agency. “It seems a career as a broker is easy to do and everyone can do it. In my opinion, estate agents or brokers should work steadfastly in their careers for the long term,” U Aung Kyaw Moe said. “An estate agent’s career is not easy as other people think.” With foreign investment companies entering Myanmar this year, real estate agencies are now seeing more business from foreigners than ever before. But whether new to the culture or a lifelong resident, U Aung Kyaw Moe advised buyers and sellers to always go with established, experienced agents to help them navigate what is, for most, a stressful and challenging process. With ownership papers being one of the biggest challenges of any property deal, he said, it’s especially important to have a professional look into the background of the property, to make sure the person you’re dealing with has the legal right to offer up the property. “I have met some people who have had disputes over this matter,” he said. “So I want to advise that


people should ask about the properties first, before they buy them, and should buy only if there is no problem with the possession of documents for the properties.” Property listings are available from real estate journals such as A Kyoe Saung (Agent) and Golden Triangle, but direct contact with real estate agencies and property owners is the best way to proceed, said U Aung Kyaw Moe. “Buyers should enquire about property prices from real estate agencies … then discuss the property with the agency,” he said, adding that it’s important to get legal advice as well. U Yan Aung, general manager of U Sai Khon Naung real estate agency, agreed that it’s always best to avoid fly-by-night part-time operators. “Licensed agencies which pay tax to the government are trustworthy,” he said. “They can provide detailed information about the properties and their fees are very reasonable.” Commission fees, which are set by the Myanmar Real Estate Services Association, depend on the price of the property. When the purchase price is up to K10,000,000 (100 lakhs, or about US$10,200), the commission fee is 3 percent; over K10,000,000 and the commission fee

is 2pc, with the seller required to pay the commission fee. With rentals, U Yan Aung added, both tenant and landlord pay one month’s rental charge for a yearlong rental, or half a month’s rental charge for a six-month rental. Like buyers, renters must also make sure the person putting the property up for rent is actually allowed to do so. “If you want to rent a house, you should check whether the host has right to rent the home or not. If not, you’ll face legal problems.” More foreigners entering the country means more property deals, though most seem to be looking for rentals rather than purchases. “Renting increased about 50pc in the second half of 2012,” he said, while buying and selling rose in the first half of 2013 but have since been dropping again. While the influx of business means real estate agents are more necessary than ever, U Aung Kyaw Moe said it’s also left some in the business fighting to prove their worth. “If the real estate agencies can’t provide the best deals in the property sector, agencies and estate agents will disappear.”
Translation by Win Thaw Tar

Union Minister for Construction U Kyaw Lwin discussed the budget, big construction projects and crony issues with The Myanmar Times senior reporter Hsu Hlaing Htun last week in Nay Pyi Taw
What is your ministry’s budget for financial year 20132014, including additional budget? We got K191.7 billion (US$191 million) for construction of roads and bridges. But we will not be able to fully implement the section between Palae-Gantgaw-Kalay in the Asia-ASEAN Highway No 1 (Myawady, Hpa-an, Thaton, Phayagyi, Meiktila, Monywa, Palae, Gantgaw, Kalay, Tamu Highway) and the section between Kengtung and Loilem on the Asia-ASEAN Highway No 2, that were supposed to be upgraded to a two-way tar road starting from 2014. Some other sections of the ASEAN Highway (Thibaw and Loilem, Thaton-Moulmein-Yay, Dawei, Myeik and Kawthoung) still cannot be upgraded to two-way status. The hluttaw has approved an additional budget of K2086 billion. What about the budgets for this year and last? For this financial year, we got K212.109 billion. Last year, it was K393.278 billion. So we got K181168 billion less than last year. How many projects are planned for this year? The Ministry of Construction has implemented new road-building and upgrading. Road constructions are Kawtkarate Road, Thanbyu Zayat-Phayar Thone Su Road, Kawtkarate-Kyitedone-Azin Road, Kyunhla-Chathin-Kawlin Road and Malun-Sitsano-Yananma-KyutponeKantote Road. We are upgrading the Mandalay-Shwebo-Myitkyina Road, Mandalay-Takaung-BamawMyitkyina Road, Monywa-PaleGangaw Road and Kalay-Gangaw Road. Bridge projects of 1000 feet or more include Thanlwin Bridge (Pharsaung) on the TaungooMawchee-Loikaw Road in Kayah State, No 3 Sittaung Bridge over the Kapoun-Myitsu-Htantapin Road in Bago Region, Sunye Bridge and Sinkhonetine Bridge over the Pouktaw-Minpyar Road in Rakhine State, No 2 Bayintnaung Bridge over the Yangon-Pathein Road in Yangon Region and the Mekong Bridge (Myanmar-Laos Friendship Road) over TarlayParsho-Kyinelin Road in eastern Shan State. making reforms in every department. Has the ministry faced obstacles in implementing the projects? The ministry is undertaking many infrastructure projects throughout the country, including remote areas, as stability and peace improve. We are asking international organisations like JICA, ADB and KOICA to provide financial assistance.  What’s your opinion of the rumours that cronies have been given priority in tendering? We carry out development tasks with private companies in joint venture and BOT systems. Later, we’ll make use of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) system. Starting from this fiscal year, we’re buying building materials by inviting open transparent tenders through the media. And we’re operating real estate redevelopment projects including building enterprises with the open tender system.

Photo: Ko Taik

U Kyaw Lwin, Union Minister for Construction

What about mountain path transportation and future plans? We’re implementing the five-year short-term project and 20-year long-term project to equally develop the whole country, including the states. The ministry is responsible for the Union roads, international connection roads, roads connecting townships, and roads connecting regions and states, while the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development and the Ministry of Border Affairs take responsibility for roads between townships and villages and border-area roads. Some say road tolls are increasing. Will they be reduced? It is not true that the ministry has increased tolls, which are far lower in Myanmar than international standards require. Some enterprises use the BOT system. There is no plan to reduce tolls.

Engineers discuss plans in front of the Mingalar Mandalay project in Mandalay last week. Photo: Phyo Wai Kyaw

How do you see public opinion on these projects? Myanmar needs many infrastructure projects. I believe people will understand because we pay attention to elected representatives in fulfilling the needs of the country. At the same time, we are

special Report

By the numbers: the cost of constructing a building


A blueprint for success
120 115 110 105 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 65 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0

This graph shows the breakdown of the average Supervision – and a clear contract 150 – mean you’ll get the building you’ve paid for price of building a two-storey building measuring 95 145 140 feet by 50ft by 22ft. The total cost comes to nearly 135 K200 million (2000 lakhs, or about US$200,000) with 130 EI EI ThU 125 materials being the biggest expense.
All figures provided by Marvels Wealth Construction Company.
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 Materials Cement Brick Stone Aggregate Sand Broken Brick Jungle Wood 10mm Ø M.S Bar 12mm Ø M.S Bar 16mm Ø M.S Bar 18mm Ø M.S Bar 6.5mm Ø M.S Rod Pyinkado Wood 1-1/2”x1-1/2” Beadings 2’x2’ A.C Sheet X-Met Binding Wire 5-Plywood (8’x 4’) wire Nails 4” Butt & Hinge 6” Window Handle 6” Tower Bolt Hook & Eye Wood Screw Hold Fast Emulsion Paint Oil Paint Wall Putty Roller Brush Door Area Window Area Chowket Roofing Sheet Guttering Ridge Cover Roofing Screw 1-4”x 2”x1’-6” MS Flat Bolt & Nut Bamboo Coinyan Fuel Wall Tile (1’x 8”) Floor Tile (1’x 1’) White cement Steel handrailing work Quantity  2217.10 129010.35 61.55 116.45 25.21 41.61 4.46 1.22 1.23 7.85 3.30 9.53 1500.00 1847.48 22101.85 361.46 476.81 459.30 310.00 56.00 56.00 56.00 1039.72 100.00 329.10 10.22 170.95 20.00 25.00 1002.00 360.00 1456.00 5470.00 208.00 104.00 1000.00 140.00 280.00 3474.24 199.05 132.24 4200.00 378.00 30.00 314.88 Total Cost Unit  Bags Nos Suds Suds Suds Tons Tons Tons Tons Tons Tons Tons Rft Nos Rft Lbs Shts Lbs Nos Nos Nos Nos Dozs Nos Gals Gals Gals Nos Nos Sqft Sqft Rft Sqft Rft Rft Nos Nos Nos Nos Viss Gals sht sht lbs Sqft Unit price(K)  6,500 120 85,000 25,000 45,000 650,000 850,000 850,000 850,000 850,000 850,000 1,200,000 300 1,600 65 555 15,000 694 600 700 550 600 300 50 9,700 16,000 5,000 2,500 1,500 8,000 5,000 2,000 600 700 600 35 1,800 700 2,000 2,000 4,500 450 600 1,000 9,000 Total Price (K) 14,411,156 15,481,242 5,231,773 2,911,177 1,134,264 27,048,288 3,794,463 1,039,077 1,046,462 6,674,104 2,808,099 11,436,283 450,000 2,955,960 1,436,620 200,612 7,152,191 318,757 186,000 39,200 30,800 33,600 311,916 5,000 3,192,294 163,440 854,761 50,000 37,500 8,016,000 1,800,000 2,912,000 3,282,000 145,600 62,400 35,000 252,000 196,000 6,948,480 398,090 595,066 1,890,000 226,800 30,000 2,833,875 K140,058,351

Real estate wars: Yangon's most expensive areas
Lanmadaw township
K800,000 per square foot (land only) main roads

Latha township


ITH foreign investments flowing into the country, the construction and property markets have become leading options for investors. As a result, some families are choosing to “cash out” of their current residences by turning them into multi-storey buildings, moving themselves to cheaper, smaller residences and making money on the exchange. It’s a tempting option for those lucky enough to own land in a desirable area. With the right help you can end up with a shipshape high-rise building or beautifully landscaped houses even though you don’t have any idea at all about the sector yourself. At the same time, however, it’s important to consult with the experts if you’re considering this for yourself. While the collaborative efforts of owner, engineer and architect can shape desires into ideas and plans into reality, it only works if everyone’s on the same page from the beginning. Engineer U Zaw Linn inspects whether materials and procedures defined by both sides are actually the ones being used in construction. Unfortunately, he said, some of the time they’re not. In some unscrupulous companies, corners sometimes get cut, and without supervision, the owner may be left none the wiser – and dealing with the fallout down the line. “The owner and contractor already calculated the designs, the materials and the cost,” U Zaw Lin said, describing his role.“I have to inspect if these are actually used. My role is between the contractor and the owner, and there are some contractors who want to trick the owners, as they think


K1.5 million per square foot (with building) Strand Road

Pabedan township

K1.3 million per square foot (with building) main roads

Pazundaung township

K500,000 to K800,000 per square foot (land only) commercial areas


Transportation Charges

General Installation

Company Charges

A breakdown of construction material costs for a two-storey building

the owners won’t know.” It’s all about getting back the value you’ve paid for, he said. “The difference between building with and without a quality controller is if the contractor is a righteous one, then the owner would get a building equal to the expenditure. If the contractor is tricky, the owner will be faced with a loss. So the first thing the owner should do is to ask advice from acquaintances who have experience in this field.” After seven years in the trade himself, U Zaw Lin has found it’s important to choose those contractors who are actually capable rather than simply popular. As in any relationship – business or otherwise – trustworthiness is crucial. How do you build trust? Start with a contract that clearly outlines all aspects of the project, U Zaw Lin advised.

Then, he added, “If any problem arise after building, action can be taken according to the contracts. That’s why both sides should make it carefully.” U Zaw Lin is presently supervising construction of an eight-storey building on behalf of the owners. Large or small, he said, the durability of a building depends on the materials used. The Yangon City Development Committee rules that any building has to be made to last for at least 50 years, so it’s important to make sure that the individual parts add up to the proper whole. U Aung Soe Hlaing, project engineer with Marvels Wealth Construction, agreed that spending time – and money – on careful contracts and knowledgeable supervision is the surest way to ensure a result that lasts.
Translation by Sandar Lwin

Septic Tank



Kyauktada township

K1.2 million per square foot (with building) Anawrahta road, some commercial areas K550,000; secondary roads K300,000 to K400,000

Botahtaung township
K500,000 to K800,000 per square foot (land only) main roads


preservation and future use, we place heritage where it rightfully belongs, at the very centre of human development. How does the preservation of heritage buildings relate to the rise in tourism? With long histories of growth and rich mixes of cultures, many Southeast Asian cities have accumulated vast historical and cultural heritage assets that are now recognised as being of immeasurable value, not only to their own citizens but to the world as well. These assets are not only in the physical and tangible heritage forms like monuments, structures, buildings and objects but also in the living and intangible heritage forms like dances, rituals, arts, music, food, philosophies, religions, ways of life, communities and traditions. Efforts to preserve cultural heritage are costly, and extraneous spending can be ill-afforded in a developing country, especially where the drive toward economic development and modern living is a priority. Therefore, cultural and historical tourism can be a means to generate the financial resources needed to preserve old buildings, promote local businesses and upgrade the livelihoods of local communities. In Yangon’s downtown area, there are a number of precious tourism resources such as historic district around Sule Pagoda, Chinatown with its many shopping centres and so on. In order for tourists or citizens to enjoy these attractive urban spaces, it is recommended to develop attractive and comfortable urban spaces with high quality design. Creating open spaces and Sule Pagoda marks the architectural and spiritual heart of downtown Yangon. The first city plan, known as the Fraser Plan, was drawn up in the 1850s. It was based on an earlier mapping of the city that proposed a chessboard pattern of narrow streets running north-south intersected by wide boulevards running east-west to form a grid along the riverside with the Sule Pagoda as its centre. During the colonial era, this area combined high-end commercial buildings with heavy-duty public offices. Today, the Sule Pagoda roundabout is a busy intersection due mostly to a bus depot situated near City Hall. It’s also surrounded on all sides by impressive and sizeable heritage buildings. When the heights of the buildings located on the roadside of Sule Pagoda Street become taller these obstruct the important views and the cityscape. It is urgent to protect the Sule Pagoda’s visual axis and the urban landscape of the city centre. In this area, the average numbers of floors in heritage buildings is about five. If higher buildings get built, these will inevitably impair the continuity and integrity of the roadside landscape, so these will be controlled by zoning regulations. As well, some of the advertisement billboards covering the façade of the buildings may interrupt the continuity and integrity of the landscape. So billboards will also be limited in the area.

Planning ahead to protect the past
U Toe Aung, deputy head of YCDC’s Department of Roads and Bridges, spoke to Myo Lwin, editor of special publications at The Myanmar Times, about the challenges of retaining the city’s heritage in the midst of new development
WhaT is the policy of the Yangon City Development Committee in preserving heritage buildings? In order to entrust our historical and cultural heritage to future generations, the history and physical dimensions of the city must be recorded. Among tangible and intangible cultural heritages in this city are historic buildings and urban heritage zones, as well as their surrounding environments. As for tangible cultural properties, there are some lists for the conservation of historical buildings. However, there is no ongoing research on cultural and historical value, except for some prominent buildings. To preserve historical buildings and to regenerate Yangon’s unique urban landscape, it’s necessary to limit disorderly development while protecting fundamental rights – such as property rights – and harmonising them with the public interest to create a good urban environment. Guidelines are required for the preservation of the urban landscape. There must be building rules for the conservation of historic building; district rules for the conservation of the urban landscape; and city-wide rules for the conservation of the silhouette of the city that centres on Shwedagon Pagoda. By developing guidelines from building- to city-level, we expect to maintain a unique image of the city with a certain order. Currently, building application processes are being carried out by YCDC to check whether applications for new construction are in line or not. For the implementation of the conservation plan, it is necessary to cooperate with a variety of experts such as urban planners, architects, and historians in the planning stage. It is also urgent to train construction technicians who specialise in conservation repairs of historic buildings in the construction stage. Currently, these types of experts are scarce in Yangon, and therefore repairs have not been carried out appropriately. Human resource development such as research, planning, construction and maintenance is indispensable at each stage. Most of the state-owned buildings in the central part of the downtown, mostly former government offices, have not been used enough as urban facilities for citizens. It is desirable to conserve, renovate and convert these buildings in order for them to become new urban hubs. What is your opinion on the current state of YCDC’s heritage preservation? The current urban area is composed of numerous buildings which have been constructed in accordance with the social, buildings, our harmonious cityscape is in danger because of unregulated and irresponsible development. Many new buildings are not at all in harmony with the heritage buildings between them, turning Yangon into an ugly patchwork. Invaluable historic views are being forfeited to new high-rise developments. Many investors value the real estate of colonial-era buildings for their prime downtown locations. But low-lying structures often get viewed as impediments to major plans for soaring apartment blocks and office towers. Most conspicuously, zoning laws are non-existent and current legislation contains deficiencies on historic monuments and control of their immediate surroundings. Although 189 buildings are listed by YCDC as heritage sites, hundreds more impressive structures from the same era remain neither protected nor listed. As Southeast Asian cities struggle with modernisation, to formulate the Strategic Urban Development Plan for Greater Yangon. It then formed the Yangon City Comprehensive Zoning, Land Use and Urban Design Review Working Committee in June 2013 in order to bring about sustainable development to Yangon while preserving its distinct character and enhancing quality of life. What do you think are people’s general impressions of heritage buildings in Yangon? For many years, most of the people viewed the heritage buildings as an image of British imperialism. But today people realise these colonial buildings are part of the cultural heritage and represent the history of Yangon. Due to the democratisation and many people having better chances to experience foreign countries, the people are now very impressed with their own city’s heritage: the views of Shwedagon Pagoda, the architecture of downtown Yangon, the lakes and wonderful open spaces. Heritage buildings are government-owned, public-owned and privately owned. These structures will be particularly valuable to the developers who own them, as well as to the businesses that occupy them and to the city that enjoys their beauty and quality. One aspect of heritage conservation is the relation between heritage and the citizens who currently reside in historic areas whose livelihood depends on its current status. Heritage preservation is one development activity that can bring socioeconomic benefits to the entire community through a wide range of employment and incomegenerating activities. By focusing on local responsibility over

U Toe Aung Photo: Supplied

landscape plan should be formed in each district, and areas to be conserved and developed should be clearly defined. To conserve urban space does not mean letting the environment remain untouched. It is a method to regulate urbanisation for a better quality of life. In order to adapt a unique, diverse and attractive urban space for the future generation, it is urgent to record the current state of the city’s rich cultural resources, and to establish guidelines that can be shared by various stakeholders.

The former Secretariat, or ministers' office, was the site of national hero Bogyoke Aung San's assassination in 1947. Closed to the public, today it is one of 189 buildings listed as heritage sites by Yangon City Development Committee. Photo: Ko Taik

and in-sufficient maintenance and repair. Beyond the danger to individual buildings, our harmonious cityscape is in danger because of unregulated and irresponsible development’ – U Toe Aung
economic and cultural needs of time, and which were woven in a multi-layered texture in each area. Currently, in the context of economic growth, the city of Yangon is being exposed to rapid changes caused by the development of private investment. This has resulted in the significant degradation of the urban environment and the fragmentation of the urban space. In order to regulate the changing speed, an urban What issues need to be addressed most urgently? Yangon’s heritage is rich and has great potential for conservation-led development – the golden pagodas, the assortment of temples, churches and monasteries, the remarkable survival of 19th- and 20th-century architecture. But most heritage buildings in Yangon suffer from vacancy and underuse, negligence, and insufficient maintenance and repair. Beyond the danger to individual they often forget to protect their urban heritage, only to realise the grave mistake when it is too late. Restriction guidelines, regulations and laws are urgently needed for zoning and land use. YCDC has cooperated with experts from the Ministry of Construction, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Association of Myanmar Architects, the Yangon Heritage Trust and the JICA [Japan International Cooperation Agency] Study Team

‘Most heritage buildings in Yangon suffer from vacancy and underuse, negligence,

pedestrian-friendly streets together with street trees, well-designed street furniture and lighting, etc, is important to attract people to move within the urban space. In addition, night markets or lit-up historic buildings attract more people to visit urban spaces at night. How will next year’s Heritage Zoning Law affect conservation? For us it is a great opportunity. The specific objectives are: to protect buildings of architectural or historic interest and their settings; to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of conservation areas; to define the importance of urban heritage in the socio-economic and cultural profile of the city; and to promote the conservation, protection or enhancement of the urban heritage of Yangon City, including historic parks, and its interpretation and presentation to the public. What are the future plans for conserving Yangon’s heritage

buildings? YCDC in collaboration with Yangon Heritage Trust has proposed seven special character areas within a conservation zone: the old administrative core; the Secretariat environs; the social and cultural core; Chinatown; the Indian quarter; the market and

environs; and Thayettaw monastic complex. Each zone has its own characteristics and uniqueness so we’ll set up conservation guidelines and a Conservation Management Plan for each. Any chance of making the Sule Pagoda area restricted?

Number of buildings listed by Yangon City Development Committee as heritage sites


The Inland Water Transport office on Pansodan Street is among the colonial-era heritage buildings listed for protection by YCDC. Photo: Ko Taik



Working out where to live
Soaring property prices prevent many Yangon workers from living close to their jobs, making for long commutes and even longer traffic jams. Reporter Aung Kyaw Nyunt talks to four residents about renting, owning and where they’d like to live if they could afford it
I’ve lived in this township for 15 years. About 10 years ago our family rented a house, but now we live in a former playground area after we were given permission by the ward administrator to live there for five years. So we saved the cost of hiring a house. I leave about 4:30am every morning and I reach the office at 6am. In the evening, it’s two hours on the bus because of traffic jams. I take more time to get to the office but I can't live near the office because rental costs are so high, hundreds of thousands of kyat. If we get pushed out of our current land, we will have to face renting a house. The value of 30-40 square feet of land is K5,000,000. About 10 years ago, this land was worth just K400,000. I think the price jump is because of the launch of big highway projects. The government must offer us land at affordable prices. If not, the poorer members of the public will be worried about finding a place to live. It takes 30 minutes to an hour to go to my office. I pay K500 for a motorbike taxi to Dala jetty. It takes 30 minutes on the ferry to reach Yangon jetty. If I miss the first ferry, it will be a one-hour wait for the next ship. My office is on Pansodan Street, so I don’t need to ride the bus. When I have to go Hlaing Tharyar, Insein, Eastern District Court and Northern District Court, my day starts at 6am from my home. If I am late, I risk not arriving in time because of traffic jams. Once, if you wanted to buy a house in Dala, you could buy if you had about K10 million. Today the price of houses has jumped greatly. For housing brokers, it’s a businessman’s game, especially when they hear of a bridge project. Although the land price has risen, the bridge project has not launched. I want to buy a house downtown and live there, but I can’t affort to rent or buy. Rental charges are K100,000 a month and advance payment of rental charges is over K2 million. Also there will be broker charges. I hear the government is drawing up a bill of land prices. If it is successful, we the public must be hopeful for the future. If not, we can only not dream of living in the downtown.

Condo culture catching on with Yangon buyers



Daw Kyin Shein Kitchen staff at The Myanmar Times Palae Myothit, Ward 3

Ma Khine Zar Lwin Lawyer Dala township

Ma Tin Tin Soe Housewife Bahan township

Rentals here on Min Street start at K120,000 for a space of 10 feet by 60ft [3 metres by 18m]. If the space is 20ft by 60ft [6m by 18m], it costs around K150,000. In the past we had to pay a deposit of K3.5 million and the monthly fee was K40,000 or K50,000. I can’t afford to pay deposits so I’ve made a one-year contract. If you want to buy a place of 20ft by 60ft, it will be K50 milion. It is very frustrating to make a contract. Our house is two storeys and we share with another household on the top floor. Even though the place is expensive, I don’t want to move elsewhere as we know each other well. My place is near the market and it’s just 30 minutes to downtown areas – though traffic jams are another matter. Places like Dagon University and the bus terminal are closer from here. I don’t want to live in the downtown areas where there are numerous people and so many cars and I can't breathe well. I like this place. I’d like to buy an apartment here if I could afford it.

We used to live in Mayangone township, but my parents, who are government servants, moved to Hmawbi for three years. Moving to another place is not easy. I was attending medical college when we had to move and I was late for school lessons as there was no school ferry. Now I work on U Chit Maung Street. Since it takes about two hours to return to Hmawbi, I found a place in the Kyaukmyaung area instead. Now it takes about 15 minutes. The rental fee for an apartment is more than K100,000, and we have to pay a deposit of K300,000. Living in a hostel is not good. It’s not free. We have discipline and we need to abide by these rules. But I can’t help it. I prefer living in an apartment alone to sharing with other people. I like tall buildings and living on an upper floor. You get more fresh air. Ground floors are normally noisy and sometimes difficult to breathe in.
The best is living in a condominium building with enough land space or in a detached building with some land space in the compound. It is easy to find food, but it’s difficult to get a place to stay.

Ko Thet Naing Oo Student Tarmwe township

ANGON’S growing market of potential, middle-class property owners are giving up the dream of owning an actual home and opting for the urban alternative – condominium ownership. These new buyers, say agents and developers, are responding to Yangon’s shift to a more urban market, where buyers are less concerned about outdoor space and more interested in convenience, amenities and cost. The increased demand for better condos is also driving developers to build smarter, more solid buildings in line with international standards. When condominiums were introduced 10 years ago, Myanmar buyers responded to this new type of accommodation with scepticism, worried that the country’s infrastructure was not ready to accommodate multi-level housing. What if they got stuck in the lift due to a sudden power cut? In the event of a power cut, how would the water reach their unit? Today, these doubts and worries are less prominent and public opinion has shifted toward a preference for condominiums. The lure of 24-hour security, generators and modern lifts are drawing the middle class in. Still, not all condos have features and services that meet international-definition standards, especially those built within the last 10 years. One reason was a lack of existing laws regulating the industry. Sometimes,

stairways in older buildings are uneven and unsafe, or cracks are prominent along the walls. A new draft condominium law now making its way through the Pyithu Hluttaw (parliament), but the law does not make building codes or construction standards mandatory for condominium developers, nor does it specify parking allowances, lift, or public space or service requirements for residents. It is buyers who are demanding better construction, more oversight in the process and more services built into the final product and it is their demands that will change the market. Ko Zeyar Nyein, marketing manager of the Yadanar Myaing construction company, said living standards are changing and the public is demanding a better product. “These changes have impact on the way we live, and accommodation,” he said. “People

services is driving the market to improve’
– Ko Zeyar Nyein

‘Demand for better

are selecting houses that match their necessities. Based on that, there are more multi-storey buildings and condos.” What buyers are looking for now, he said, is not just a home, but a “living oasis” that will make them comfortable in their life without stress. They want one place for living, parking, sports, recreation and shopping. Therefore, the new condominium apartments being built these days in Myanmar are trying to have these necessary services built in. They are also willing to pay extra

“maintenance fees” to get the services, granted they can get what they want for their money. The demand for better services is driving the market to improve, Ko Zeyar Nyein said. Newer condos are being maintained better and developers now have to provide maintenance services for the elevators, car parking area and safety measures in the buildings. U Lar Ze, administrative director of Yadanar Tun Construction, said a guaranteed parking spot is high on the list of services these new buyers are demanding. "These days, the difficulty for car parking is everywhere. To solve that difficulty, we have to consider about an area for car parking when we build condominiums. The customers also make their choices depending on car parking,” he said. Ma Sandi Wine is the manager of a company that has just established its office in a condominium near the Shwegonedaing junction. She said her company chose a new condominium instead of an older apartment because it had enough space and parking for her company’s needs. To be able to provide the necessary services for the residents, the condominium apartments usually form some kind of oversight committee and fund the committee themselves, thereby guaranteeing that they will be satisfied with the services. "I chose the condominium mainly because of the spacious room size. It is also more convenient to live than the ordinary apartments,” said Ma Ei Ei Cho, a resident of a condominium apartment at Yekyaw Street, Pazundaung township. “There is no need to worry about security and also water supply.

Thiri condominium in Yangon. Photo: Staff

But sometimes we have to wait for about two days if the lift is out of order. Normally it is okay, as there is a private generator and security at night is also okay,” she said. Residents of condominium apartments have had to face many problems and difficulties due to a lack of oversight from governmental agencies. U Lar Ze, from Yadanar Tun Construction, said the existence of the new condominium law is already changing the game for developers. “There is no specific definition for the condominium apartment here yet,” he said. “The definition of a condominium and the standard features for it will be in place in the future ... Even now the

buyer’s consideration has shifted from just living to car parking areas,” U Lar Ze said. Although the new condominium law does not require more of developers in terms of building standards, it does open the door to foreign ownership and therefore, international clients who bring their standards of construction, with them to the market. “For the moment, the local purchase alone is not enough,” Ko Zeyar Nyein said, But when the condominium law is enacted and the foreigner residents come in, the culture of living in condominium apartments could expand even more than now.”
Translation by Sandar Lwin



Bathroom upgrades a sign of changing times

Elevators give lift to high-rise lifestyles

s the country’s population accumulates more wealth, buyers’ tastes and preferences for bathroom amenities and luxuries are changing. Now, seated toilets and even, bathtubs are all the rage. Traditionally, bathrooms have not been a place of sanctuary for Myanmar people. Until 10 years ago, most bathrooms in Myanmar had squat toilets and some still had detached rooms for “conducting business”. Even today, most middle-class families use large tubs and bowls or cups to take cold water bucket showers. Because of the hot climate, few have hot-water heaters. The bathroom is now a room of focus for Myanmar home and condo owners, said U Tun Tun Naing, director of Myanmar Pride International Ltd., which imports and supplies bathroom materials for construction companies and homeowners.  Many renters and homeowners, he said, are expatriate Myanmar people who are now coming home and want to integrate the comforts of their overseas life into their new lives in their home country. They are seeking a space where they can experience personal relaxation with the latest bathroom wares of various designs. High on the list of demands, he said, is a clean water supply with hot and cool heating options, porcelain basins and sterile, seated toilets. “Today, in Myanmar, there are the migrants who come back and settle in the country and also many architects and interior decorators,” U Tun Tun Naing said. “International standard hotel construction and renovations are also booming. Some people even go abroad to buy bathroom wares. Customer demands are increasing ... These days, if a


N 1854, Elisha Otis caused a sensation at the World Trade Fair in New York. Climbing on top of a platform, he ordered it raised high above the ground and then, to the audience’s horror, purposefully cut the only rope holding him up. The platform sank a few inches –then stabilised, thanks to a system of locks which clamped the so-called “safety elevator” in place as soon as it started to descend too quickly. “All safe, gentlemen,” Otis proclaimed. And since then, elevators have revolutionised the way we live, turning cities into vertical habitats, acting as subways leading to the sky, allowing us to build up instead of out. The Otis elevator was first used in Myanmar in 1924. And with the boom in the construction of high-rises post-2010, elevator use is increasingly on the rise in Yangon. It’s also a complicated business. “Elevators depend on the
A salesperson explains the quality of fittings to a customer at the Myanmar Pride International showroom last week in Yangon. Photo: Thiri Lu


design of the building,” said elevator engineer Ko Saw Lu. “For example, old elevators in some old government hospitals don’t have machine rooms” – the 14-foothigh room sticking out above the roof of the building, from which the elevator is powered, meaning that the drive machinery must be contained within the shaft itself. “If this elevator is damaged, it must be replaced with another of the same design.” Ko Kyaw Zay Tun Thu, chief operations officer for Naing Construction’s elevator engineering group, says other countries usually require elevators in any building over four floors. Here, the normal practice is six floors. “Elevators are easier to install in condos in which rich residents will live than in normal buildings which won’t be lived in by the wealthy,” Ko Saw Lu said. “If there is an elevator in a regular six-floor building, there also needs to be space left for the elevator shaft and that will increase the price of the flats. Also there’s the issue that those on the ground floor don’t want to pay elevator charges, but everything in the building will be more expensive because of it.” The price of an elevator can be anywhere from US$25,000 to

$90,000, depending on a number of factors: how many people it will carry (usually six to 24); its speed (usually about a metre per second); the number of floors; whether destinations are announced

Photo: www.ideal1elevator.com

automatically; whether the lift is air-conditioned; the interior decorating style; and whether or not various other features are included, such as a card reader, a

central control system, a fire system and something called an automatic rescue device (ARD). This last option is to do with electricity outages – something to plan for in other countries, but to plan on in Myanmar. When power cuts out, an elevator with an ARD will continue to the nearest floor and then open. But the battery backup lasts six hours, beyond which it won’t function. Given the extra costs of ARD and the frequency of power outages, the safe choice is likely to install a generator. As they’re powered by electricity, elevator installation is governed by the 1984 Electricity Law and the 1985 Procedures for the Electricity Law. Inspectors from the Ministry of Electric Power's Electrical Inspection Department must check elevators yearly to assess whether the permit can be renewed. U Kyu Sein, a retired deputy director of the Department of Power Inspection, said elevators also fall under the building code created by the Myanmar Engineering Society, the Ministry of Construction and UN-HABITAT which was confirmed in 2012 – and can now be acquired on CD for K1000. What about Otis’s claim? Are

elevators really safe? Only one in 12 million elevator rides involves some sort of “anomaly”, usually something simple like a door failing to open automatically on first try. Only one person in history has died due to a safety elevator actually free falling; the few other injuries and deaths that happen each year are mostly due to clothing trapped in doors, accidents during maintenance, or faulty repair jobs. Compared to other forms of transportation, elevators have a sterling service record. In fact, one could say they’re are the safest vehicles in existence. What about the common fear of getting trapped? It is, admittedly, more likely here than elsewhere. When companies install elevators, U Kyu Sein said, they have to offer training to staff on how to rescue someone accidentally shut in an elevator. But new hires aren’t always given the same training later on, meaning the chances of being rescued quickly may depend on who happens to be on shift at any given time. Depending on your feelings on confined spaces, that may be good motivation to take the stairs. Just think of it as free exercise.

new brand enters the market, it can easily find market share. The customer’s preference is for better quality and durable products.” There is no lack of supply for products, but finding quality products can take time and a good dose of discrimination. According to U Tun Tun Naing, buyers have become increasingly picky in the past few years as the market has opened up. A few years ago, he said, they would accept lower-quality imported goods that would often break, or fall apart, after a few months. Now, he said, everyone is concerned about their investment and customers are demanding higher-priced, more durable goods. “Durable goods should be used for long-term investments,” he said.

“Before, people usually preferred the cheaper bathroom wares and did not use to ask about the product's durability, quality and functions. Only these days people are interested in them. Today, suppliers can no longer cheat the customers by selling China-made products as though they were from Thailand.” Improved internet access and a more informed customer means buyers are no longer relying on the supplier’s knowledge alone as they shop. For suppliers, U Tun Tun Naing said, the competition is stronger and, although sales are still high, profits are not as generous as they used to be. Today, fair competition from various imported brands has developed within the bathroomware market.

Imports are still strong from China and Thailand, but now more expensive products made in Japan, for example, are also common in Myanmar. As customers’ tastes continue to change, their requests are also changing, said Ma Aye Thandar Aung, who has been distributing TOTO brand products since 2005. Although most are still concerned with transforming their basic bathroom into a more modern design, others are already asking for specialised products. For example, she said, she is now getting requests for bathroom decor, and even products that conserve water and are environmentally friendly. The desire to upgrade the bathroom experience is not limited

to Yangon or the country’s other urban areas either, Ma Aye Thandar Aung said. Customers are selecting seated toilets instead of traditional squat models for sanitation purposes, she said. This especially true for hotels and guest houses, where bathroom conditions can determine how the hotel is graded by reviewers and guests. “Sanitation is essential for every individual,” Ma Aye Thandar Aung said. “Now, sitting toilets are used not only in the big cities but in provincial areas as it helps with health issues and is essential for elders and the disabled ... Local hotels have also started choosing good quality sanitation items.”
Translation by Sandar Lwin

World's priciest homes
If you’ve ever imagined your dream house, here are a few to inspire you. Mind you, these all come with a mighty bill.
1. Antilia - $1 billion
Here is the most expensive home in the world. This outrageously opulent palace of 27 storeys located in South Mumbai belongs to business tycoon Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries Limited, and was reportedly built by the billionaire for his wife, Nita. The 400,000 square feet mansion, designed by architects Perkins and Will of Chicago, is as tall as a regular 60 floor building, owing to its specially high ceilings. spread over 63 acres, a seaside mansion in Sagaponack, New York, owned by American businessman and investor Ira Leon Rennert. The 110,000square-foot property includes 29 bedrooms, 39 bathrooms (one of them is fitted with a hot tub worth $150,000!), a 91-foot-long dining room, five tennis courts, a bowling alley, squash courts, basketball courts, manicured gardens and a fantastic sea view. Its net value adds up to $248 million after tax assessments.

7. The Pinnacle - $155 million
Yellowstone Club owner Tim Blixseth’s fairytale mansion in Montana takes the seventh spot in our list. Nestled snugly among the snowy hillside, The Pinnacle, though not as huge as the other properties that make it to the top 10, is a winner on account of its wondrous location and topnotch amenities. The Manor, situated in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, California originally belonged to noted television producer Aaron Spelling. Designed as a French Cha teu, The Manor includes 4.6 acres of land, on which stand 123 rooms, not to mention 56,000 square feet of space. This country retreat, which is the largest residential property in Los Angeles County, is currently owned by Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter Petra Ecclestone.
Antilia, 27 storeys, is located in South Mumbai.

8.   The Manor - $150 million

2.  Villa Leopolda - $506 million

Located in the astonishingly beautiful town of Villefranchesur-Mer in the French Riviera, Villa Leopolda, named after King Leopold II of Belgium, is the second-most expensive home in the world. The luxurious residence spread over 10 acres of French country now belongs to Brazilian philanthropist Lily Safra.

5. Hearst Castle - $165 million

William Randolph Hearst’s Castle, one of the most famous addresses in the United States, is undoubtedly one of the most expensive as well. Rising from the mist covered La Cuesta Encantada or “The Enchanted Hill”, Hearst Castle encompasses 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, walkways, water bodies and terraces.

3. The Penthouse, One Hyde Park - $211 million

This one is probably the most unbelievably priced property on the list. Today, the towers are inhabited by a host of ultra-rich and famous names.

6. Franchuk Villa - $161 million

4.   Fairfield Pond- $198 million

Named after the Atlantic water body facing it, Fairfield Pond is

Franchuk Villa, located in Upper Phillimore Gardens, London, UK started off as a preperatory school for girls. The villa spanning 21,000 square feet is owned by Elena Pinchuk – daughter of former Ukranian President Leonid Danylovych Kuchma.

9. Updown Court - $138 million

Windlesham village in Surrey, England, has it’s very own sightseeing spectacle in the form of Updown Court, a Queen Anne-style luxury mansion originally owned by Major General Sir Philip Ward and his family until his death, after which the house was sold to Prince Sami Gayed of Egypt.

The mansion itself housed 103 rooms and an underground garage big enough to hold eight limousines.

10. Hala Ranch - $135 million
A uniquely beautiful creation in Aspen, Colorado, the Hala Ranch, named by its original owner Prince Bandar

bin Sultan, stands alone, surrounded by rich green conifers on grassy hills. The 90acre ranch on Rocky Mountain includes a fifteen-bedroom house spanning 56,000 square feet, with 16 bathrooms. http://listdose.com/top-10-worldsmost-expensive-houses-in-theworld/


Reflections on a changing city
Dominating the exterior of many of Yangon’s new buildings, glass is rapidly changing the look of the city itself

AYe ThIda KYaW


HE colonial-style buildings for which Yangon is famous reflect the qualities of those who designed them – the British thought their empire would last forever, and their architecture mirror this, with solid foundations, ornamented exteriors and pillars to keep things up. Now, a more modern approach to architecture is taking over – transparent and reflective, both there and not there, it catches the eye while keeping the focus on action, not edifice. Stone-age societies made use of naturally occurring glass, and human glassmaking dates back to the days of ancient Egypt at least. But the way glass being integrated into buildings in Myanmar has changed in the last few years. Architects are starting to use it not just for windows, but also for skylights, shelves and staircases. “Using glass became popular in Myanmar in imitation of international designs,” said Yangon architect U Ye Myint. “The concept [of how to use glass] has changed.” Builders and buyers used to think of glass as something that let in light – or, in the worst-case scenario, intruders. But the stigmas surrounding glass are changing. “Our customers used to think that using glass everywhere would lesson security and privacy, but the technology has been modified and their tastes have changed,” U Ye Myint said. Glass offers a more elegant and freer look than brick, allowing better integration with landscaping and

design both inside and out. Windows and mirrors also make rooms appear more airy and spacious. Not that glass is entirely worryfree. High-rise buildings require thicker glass (6 millimetres or more) for safety, U Ye Myint said, which can lead to higher costs in construction. Highly tempered safety glass costs about K5000-K6000 a square foot, while normal glass is about K2500 for the same size, according to Daw Su Su Hein, from laminated glass factory Super Select Glass Decoration. Glass also demands a security system, to prevent break-andentry, as well as a design that will keep ultraviolet rays from fading furnishings. “That’s why solar glass or laminated glass should be used for anti-reflective purposes,” U Ye Myint said. Most apartment and housing complexes in Yangon don’t use large windows for these reasons, he said – and using glass in hilly areas or other regions threatened by natural disaster is something that makes the architect think twice. But for office buildings in areas like Yangon, glass is many ways the perfect exterior. By placing toilets and lifts in the centre of the building, you allow sunlight in on all sides, U Ye Myint said, making for a more cheerful, modern workspace. Although U Ye Myint started using glass in this way in 1995, it wasn’t until the construction of Sakura Tower in 1999 and Sule’s Centrepoint Towers Hotel – started in 1995, stalled in 1998 and finally completed in 2010 – that the look began to catch on in Yangon’s downtown and elsewhere. Now, glass provides the centerpiece of one of the country’s most famous new buildings, the Myanmar International Convention

Construction of Centrepoint Towers Hotel on Sule Street started in 1995, stalled in 1998, and was finally completed in 2010. In the meantime, the glass look began to catch on in Yangon’s downtown and elsewhere.  Photo: Aung Tun Win

Centre in Nay Pyi Taw, which played host to the 2013 World Economic Forum on East Asia. “It depends on the nature of building,” U Ye Myint added. “We could not use an all-glass design for hotels” – a remider that, price

aside, Yangon’s downtown real estate market doesn’t quite match up with Manhattan’s, where the recently built Standard Hotel has drawn criticism for its transparent all-glass façade which leaves guests on display for all to see. Of course, the glass trend isn’t just about style. It’s also about supply. The building of new glass factories in Myanmar a few years ago brought down prices, meaning

that glass no longer needed to be imported from China or Thailand. Still, U Ye Myint says, public interest is ultimately what’s tilting the industry toward glass. “Our customers’ changing mindset also helped our idea [to integrate more glass into designs]. It is obviously costly, but they don’t reject using it as the property price is much higher than the cost of the construction price today.”


Putting a roof over your head

Photo: Ko Taik

Not just an expression of style, the roof is a vital consideration for choosing a new home
choice if you’ve done some research ahead of time about what’s on the market. The most popular choice is coloured steel roofs, which are mostly imported from Taiwan and China, with some also coming from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere. “Rates of importing coloured steel roofs in the year 2000 were small,” said Daw Mya Thida, who owns Kaung Kin Thit coloured steel roof shop. “But now construction material stores sell them more than anything else.” She said Chinese coloured steel roofs are cheaper, at K850 a square foot for a 0.36mm thickness, but Taiwanese materials, which go for K950, are better quality. “Taiwan-made roofing is coated with aluminum under the paint. It won’t rust if the paint peels off,” Daw Mya Thida said. Those on a budget, however, may look to Chinese materials, the thinnest of which goes for K450 a square feet. Since this price isn’t much different from the price of a thatched roof, many who formerly would have chosen thatch are now able to opt for steel instead. This provides more long-lasting protection, according to the owners of a construction materials business in Saw Bwar Gyi Gone sales centre. “Those coloured steel roofs have been popular for four or five years due to durability,” said Daw Nwe Nwe, sales manager of Shwe Sin Min coloured steel roof shop. “Plus [customers] can choose the colour which suits the building’s design and the surroundings.” Daw Nwe Nwe added that there is no difference in price according to colour. So what pairs well with the Myanmar landscape? Most go for colours that match the environment, she said: The most popular are reddish brown, sky blue and green. Orange, dark brown and light green roof are also available, but are proving much less popular with buyers. The drawbacks of a steel roof are that they’re hot in the sun and noisy in the rain – both of which Myanmar gets a lot. Both problems can be mitigated by installing insulators such as fibreglass, wool and foil under the roof. But you may also want to consider a few alternatives as well. Coloured zinc roofs are usually imported, but you can order the design you like in factories in the Shwepyithar and Hlaingtharyar industrial zones. The exoticsounding choices include wave, concave wave, convex wave, universe, Taiwan design, eagle design and classic. Another option is concrete tiles. Popular among the moderately well-to-do, they’re mostly found in townships outside the big cities. The downside, U Aung Lin Tun said, is that concrete tiles can become stained with mould within five years, which will reduce the appeal of your property. The priciest option is clay tiles. Quiet in the rain, cool in the sun, fireretardant, efficient at draining water and coated with enamel to discourage mould build-up, clay tiles are usually only affordable for the rich. Daw Win Min Thant, from Zin Htet cement and construction materials business, said clay tiles currently make up about 20 percent of the market. They’re usually found in resort bungalows, hotel projects, single houses and company offices into which owners can afford to pour a lot of money. “The cost of roofing with clay tiles is 20 times more than with zinc tiles,” said U Aung Lin Tun from EVA Company, which orders tiles from Thailand’s SCG Company. The investment can pay off in the long term, however. Salesperson U Myo Thant from Natural Clay Company said their tiles, made – as you’d guess – from natural clay use Japanese technology and can last up to 90 years. Of course, money’s not the only factor to consider. Another urgent issue when putting on a new roof is timing. Remember, whether thatch or zinc, steel or clay, there’s no time like the present to get your roof sorted. After all, no one likes finding out they should have put on a new roof last winter – especially not when the first sign of trouble is the drip-drip of monsoon rain in your living room. Translation by Win Thaw Tar

Wa LoNe

LOOKING for a good foundation for your home? Don’t look down, roofing experts say, look up: The aesthetics, insulation and weather-proofing of your household all start with a good roof. Fortunately for homeowners, options have expanded dramatically over the past few years, with more materials and colours available than ever before. While the good news is that there’s something for every price range, the choices can sometimes be overwhelming. That’s why, whether building or renovating, it’s always best to consult architects and decorators on what kind of roofing material will best complement your budget and the overall design of your home’s exterior. As with any purchase, of course, it’s also easier to make the right



Art scene finds new home in old landmarks
As works of art themselves, it’s no surprise that some of Yangon’s famous colonial buildings have been turned into galleries showcasing the works of both old and new generations of painters and sculptors
and artist U Aung Soe Min told The Myanmar Times. “As an artist, I have dream of opening art galleries in these buildings.” The ground floor of the building is occupied by Kyaw Home Mart and the first floor houses Sarpay Lawka bookstore. But many years ago, the building was the famous address of TE Jumal Silk and Carpet. “The exact time the building was constructed is unknown,” U Aung Soe Min said. But TE Jumal Silk and Carpet Store influenced authors’ writings. One wrote that the business of the store continued to flourish till the post-war years.” The store was nationalised in 1964, but U Aung Soe Min hopes the newly restored address will take hold of the public’s imagination once again. The grand opening is still to come – the renovation won’t be finished until December – but the venue is already vibrant, with movie screenings, jazz performances and a number of art shows already happening. U Aung Soe Min is no stranger to the artistic scene. Along with his wife Nance Cunningham, he opened Pansodan Art Gallery, located on the first floor of 286 Pansodan Street since 2008. He also publishes the weekly Pansodan arts and culture journal, covering the local scene in both Myanmar and English. “The art galleries in converted colonial-era buildings will stimulate public interest in these buildings and motivate people to preserve them.” Gallery 65 Juxtaposed with newer structures along Yaw Min Gyi Road sits a charming colonial-era residence with a concrete base and a wooden first floor. For decades, passersby – especially foreigners – stopped in front of the

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OR decades the historical worth of Yangon’s colonialera architecture was largely overlooked. Roots ran deep, causing cracks in the walls that widened slowly over time. Floorboards decayed. Timber window frames were ruined through years of neglect. Now that’s all changing. While many buildings are beyond hope, others are being given a new lease on life. Revived and restored, some of the best examples of British colonial architecture left in Asia are being repurposed into new spaces which put their unique charm and historical character to modern use. Who has the motivation – and the money – to take on these transformations? If you’ve been to an art gallery lately, chances are you know the answer. Here’s a look at three of the city’s hottest gallery spaces, all located in renovated colonial buildings. Pansodan Scene The imposing front of 144 Pansodan Street is defaced with large signboards, and the walls of the three-storey building have been marred by coats of multicoloured paint. But you shouldn’t judge a building by its façade: Head inside and climb the stairs to the second floor and you’ll find an old room being renovated into a place where appearances are everything. It’s not ready yet, but the space is the future home of a new art gallery called Pansodan Scene. “The colonial-era buildings never fail to draw my attention,” owner

Dr Aung Sea Sar

U Zin Min Swe

Daw Yuzana Lwin

U Maw Lin

U Sithu Myint Swe

U Sun Oo

U Thaw

U Thet Naing Shein

U Win Myint

U Zarni Aung

Pedestrians walk past a colonial-era building on Pansodan Street now blocked by advertising billboards. Photo: Ko Taik

unique house to take pictures of it. Some even asked to look inside. While the first floor remains a family home, the ground floor was remade in 2010 to become Gallery 65. Gallery owner U Myint Lwin, who grew up in the house, said turning the property into an art venue is the realisation of a 20-year dream. His parents have been living in the house since the 1950s, while his mother’s uncle lived on the ground floor. After his uncle’s death six years ago, his parents continued living upstairs, while the ground floor was converted into storage. It was then that U Min Lwin asked his mother for permission to use the ground floor as an art space. With his parents’ permission, he repainted the walls and installed some lighting. He was careful not to decrease the architectural value of the property. “The colonial style of architecture and art galleries are very well matched,” U Myint Lwin said.

Of four similarly built properties on Yaw Min Gyi, two were destroyed during World War II, and the third was demolished 20 years ago and replaced with a block of apartments. U Min Lwin said hopes are higher for the Gallery 65 building. “It is structurally sound,” he said. “The wooden ceiling is elegant and is in good condition.” So is business. The gallery is booked up until next March, according to U Min Lwin, with exhibits featuring mostly local artists. Lokanat Gallery Lokanat Gallery substantially predates the recent heritage conversion trend. It’s the longestrunning gallery in the country. Founded in 1971 by agreement between the gallery’s board of directors and nine member artists, Lokanat operates as a non-profit NGO, staging exhibitions by both members and non-members. Artist U Pe Nyunt Way was among the founders of the gallery.

“At the time, artists didn’t have much choice in terms of where to exhibit their artworks. So they asked the government for a proper place to hold regular exhibitions. In 1971, the artists were offered a hall in the first floor of Sofaer’s buildings” at 58-62 Pansodan, U Pe Nyunt Way said. Built in 1906, the building has a varied history. According to the book 30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon, it’s housed everything from a high-end cigar shop to Reuters – which at that time was sending the news by telegram. The gallery is run by member artists alone, without outside funding, so tight budgets mean major renovations to the building have gone undone. But with more international collectors visiting, and with ATMs and credit cards starting to make big-ticket purchases easier than ever, interest in Myanmar art is set to skyrocket – a rosy picture indeed for Lokanat and the other galleries framing themselves in the city’s colonial past.

U Myo Myint (U Percy) U Sithu Myint Swe ST & T Architects Freelance Daw Thin Thin Aye Eit-Si-Tan Co U Win Myint Utopia Architects

U Zarni Aung 2Architects U Thet Naing Shein Marvel Architects Daw Chaw Kalyar Statement Architects

Dr Yuzana Lwin DNH Architects Daw Hla Su Myat Design Valley Dr Aung Sea Sar The Grand Sunday

U Saw Phyu Thein Freelance U Sun Oo Design 2000 U Myo Zaw Myint Ein Mon Architects

U Thaw M Thaw & Associates U Zin Min Swe C.A.D Architecture U Myint Wai Scale Architect Associates

U Aung Myint Amenity Design U Khaing Win Lat Modular Architects

U Nyein Chan Soe U Maw Lin Living Design architects & New Century Group Architecture planners

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