One Building Represents Both Past and Future
Preserving Yangon’s cultural past and cultivating Myanmar’s creative future.
The Secretariat occupies approximately 16 acres in the South of Yangon, and was designed by British architect Henry Hoyne-Fox (1855-1905) as the epicentre of Rangoon (present day Yangon) the first South-East Asian garden city.
Work started in 1890 on the central building, with the Eastern, Western and Northern wings added in subsequent years.
However, an Earthquake in 1930 laid many of the Secretariat’s iconic features, including its turrets and central dome, to waste, only for the building to be left to fall into disrepair, post-independence.
The restoration forms part of the Yangon Heritage Trust’s aim to restore and preserve Yangon’s architectural heritage in the face of break-neck development and modernisation, a heritage that is deemed of world importance.
The Secretariat holds a unique place in Myanmar’s history, being the location for some of the most important moments in its colonial, independence and post-independence history.
Fully completed in 1905, The Secretariat was the centre of British colonial administration in Burma, and was the pre-eminent structure associated with the government during this period.
The building was also the place where Myanmar’s first steps towards independence happened. The diarchy (Legislative Council) was established at The Secretariat in 1923, giving Burma a measure of self-rule. It was the location where Burma formally separated from India in 1937, and where the largest anti-colonial student demonstration at the time occurred in 1938.
After the Second World War, independence negotiations began, and by 1947 an agreement had been reached with the then independence leader, General Aung San.
On 19 July 1947, however, Aung San and eight other cabinet members were assassinated in the west range of The Secretariat, a murder that has since been commemorated every year in the inner Quadrangle on ‘Martyrs’ Day’.
Independence from Britain was finally marked in the quadrangle of the Secretariat complex’s main courtyard in 1948, a key event in Burmese and British history.
It continued to be the centre of post-independence governmental administration until the capital was relocated from Yangon to Naypyidaw in 2005.
– Reproduced in full from SY material June 2019.
In 2017-18 restoration efforts started in earnest with The Start Society moving in as one of many tenants from mid 2019 with the sponsorship of Cooper & Co as part of a broader revitalisation of the site for cultural and creative national development.