Despite being born and raised in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma), many in my generation that grew up under the military dictatorship know little about our own city. Through different political contexts—precolonial days, British rule, a short-lived Independent Republic, decades of military rule, and the country’s recent transition to democracy—Yangon’s intangible histories and memories have become lost, even as the city’s heritage buildings and religious sites remain intact. How can architecture preserve knowledge in addition to preserving building?
Sarpay Beikman was constructed in downtown Yangon in 1955 to house the Burma Translation Society, founded at Independence to translate outside knowledge into Burmese for the wider public as part of the country’s development. How can it continue and extend its original mission by being reimagined as an engine to translate and preserve Yangon’s past for its citizens?