Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country in Asia. It has the largest land area in Southeast Asia and a population of nearly 54 million. From 1824 to 1948, it was a British colony. The British took control of Burma through three wars, exiled the king, and turned Burma into a province of British India. During their time in the country, the British constructed impressive colonial buildings in Myanmar most of which the country still uses.
The Secretariat or the Ministers’ Building is arguably one the most, if not the most, important colonial buildings in Myanmar. After its construction in 1889, it served as the central administrative building for British Burma. It was a Victorian-style building, consisting of 16 cupolas to look like the crown of Queen Victoria. Although it was a monument and symbol of colonial power and rule, the Secretariat was also the building where Burma officially gained independence.
In 1948, the British signed the documents that transferred their power to the Burmese delegation. However, the building was also home to tragedy. The prime minister of British Burma, Galon U Saw, had 7 nationalist Burmese ministers assassinated in 1947. Following the assassination, the ministers have been honored every year on Burmese Martyrs’ Day. Moreover, there is a monument near the building commemorating the ministers as well.
In the capital of Myanmar, in downtown Yangon, stands the High Court building. It was designed by Scottish architect James Ransome and its construction lasted 6 years from 1905 to 1911. What is most notable about The High Court is that it involves different architectural styles. Overall, traces of Victorian, Queen Anne Revival, and Indo-Saracenic architecture exist together in harmony in High Court.
Similar to other colonial court buildings, the High Court has lions looking at opposite directions on every wing roof. The High Court building is one of the colonial buildings in Myanmar that the country used for a long time after the British left. Until 2006, the government used the building as the Supreme Court and now it is on the national heritage list.
Another Victorian-style colonial building, the Strand is an important part of Myanmar’s history as a colony. After its opening in 1901, Strand Hotel managed to become a popular hotel both in Myanmar and Southeast Asia. Serving only to a high-end pool of white customers, the hotel changed hands in 1925. While it underwent a major renovation in 1937, the hotel fell to the hands of invading Japanese forces during WWII.
The hotel served as headquarters for the Japanese army until the end of the war when it went back to the Burmese corporations. However, Strand Hotel did not reach its former popularity for a long time. After the coup in 1988, the hotel underwent yet another renovation. In 1993, it re-opened as an all-suite boutique hotel. The same year, the Strand found a place on the most famous hotels list for the first time.
If the colonizer British loved anything, it was their clubs. Especially in India, the British opened up social clubs for the military and government officials in the colony. The clubs were heavily segregated as only whites could use the facilities and go into the club building. These social clubs were the British’s common way to set up the social dichotomy and themselves as superior to the colonized public. The clubs had their own sets of rules about general behavioral etiquette and membership.
The most famous colonial club in British Burma was the Pegu Club. The club was especially famous for its signature drink, the Pegu Club Cocktail. The club survived the Japanese invasion and after the independence turned into an administrative building for some time. Currently, there is an effort of renovation to re-open the Pegu.