Grand, crumbling buildings with ornately fenestrated, moss-daubed façades flank the streets of downtown Yangon in Myanmar. These pastel-coloured structures saturate the former capital, believed to have the highest concentration of colonial-era buildings on the Asian continent.
Built during 19th century British rule of the country (then called Burma), many buildings are inhabited by locals enjoying leafy balcony views. Street vendors in ankle-brushing skirts sell brass statues beneath their ground floor arches. Older gentlemen drag heavy typewriters to the street from their dark corridors, tapping away on wobbly tables before rain sends them hurrying back inside. Many others remain empty and in disrepair, looking more likely to be hit with wrecking balls than renovated.
The newest chapter in this heritage story began in 2018, when the ribbon was cut on the Yangon Excelsior: a luxury boutique hotel built on a downtown site dating back to the 1870s, which during colonial times was owned by the British Steel Brothers trading company.
Renovating the Excelsior, located on the atmospheric tea-stall lined Bo Sun Pat Street, was a process of discovery. Once a 1930’s post office, black and white photos in the hotel show Steel Brothers workers beavering away in an expansive atrium, which was later covered up by ceiling layers during subsequent renovations.
Our Designers sought to uncover and celebrate such history, not cover it up, with existing architectural elements such as the foyer’s huge black steel beams and central lift shaft, being incorporated into the hotel’s sleek, white-dominated modern design.
The Yangon Excelsior opened in 2018 and has since received the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award, for both 2019 and 2020, as well as multiple local heritage awards.