School of Architecture

Friday 12 May 2017

Twenty University of Queensland students of architecture, eighteen of them New Colombo Plan Grant recipients, have just returned from a Travelling Studio to Yangon in Myanmar.

"We had a magnificent stay in this unique city, focusing our attention on its rich street life, informal trading and memorable bustle. The heat was stifling, but we shared it with locals on the crowded circular railway and in the serene precincts of the majestic Swedagon Pagoda," said Dr. Pedro Guedes who led the students.

With the help of Professor Ma Pwint of the Technical University of Yangon, UQ students collaborated with local students of architecture sharing a studio kindly made available by the Myanmar Association of Architects. The students' design project work focused on the rehabilitation of external areas around an abandoned building, originally built in the early 1900s as the first Burmese owned Department store. They visited the site with Harry Wardill and Leila Allbrook of Turquoise Mountain who aim to rehabilitate the building as a Major Landmark Regeneration Project. Their aim is to create a sustainable source of income for both men and women, with the long-term goal of generating a renewed sense of cultural pride.

Image: Yangon department store built in the early 1900s. Photo: Pedro Guedes

Daw Moe Moe Lwin of the Yangon Heritage Trust supported the Travel Studio facilitating presentations and lectures which gave students the opportunity to learn about the city, its character and future prospects. Additionally, she coordinated highly informative walking tours, helping students to appreciate Yangon’s colonial buildings and the now emerging complex built environment.

David Gole of Conrad and Gargett, Brisbane also joined the Travelling Studio, enriching the student's understanding of Yangon. He shared his insightful experiences of living in the city, introduced students to its hidden corners and its surprisingly varied and tasty culinary delights. At the Australian Embassy Club, students were entertained at an informal reception, meeting other Australians working in the country and Myanmar students who will soon travel to Australia to study. 

"It was really interesting learning what life was like for students like us in Yangon" said UQ Architecture student Billy McQueenie. "The trip to was invaluable to my studies, providing an amazing insight into the architecture of the region, both traditional and colonial. A highlight was collaborating with local students on our design project."

Pedro said, "we leave with fond memories of wonderful experiences, a city with friendly people and a future with great possibilities!".