Rise of the Secretariat Yangon

After the British annexation of Upper Burma in 1886, the British colonial government’s administrative work increased exponentially resulting in an urgent need to expand the cramped and poorly lit administration building original located on Strand Road.

The British assigned Henry Hoyne-Fox, executive engineer at government’s public works the task of designing a sprawling new Victorian-style complex on 16 acres in the heart of Yangon.

Design and construction of the complex began in the 1889.

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The central building was completed in 1902, while the complex’s eastern and western wings were not completed until 1905, all at a cost of around 2.5 million kyats.

The construction effort on the massive u-shaped complex of red and yellow brick was truly a global effort.

The steel used in the support structure of the buildings was shipped in from Glasgow, Scotland and the original roof tiles were manufactured in France while the bricks and teak for the wood work were locally sourced across Asia.

The masterful construction of The Secretariat Yangon was the work of a father-and-son team originally form Northern India.

Baboo Naitram Rambux took over the family’s construction company when he was just a teenager after his father was killed by a train in 1894.

His father had been responsible for the start of construction on the central building of the Secretariat, while Baboo was responsible for completion of the central building and erected the two latter wings to the east and west.

The Minister’s Office

For over 120 years it has the epicenter of countless changes in the political progression of Myanmar.

It contains the Yangon Parliament House where Burma’s self-rule first began and its West Wing is the location of the assassination of General Aung San, the father of Modern Myanmar, and 6 cabinet members on 19 July 1947.

After Independence in 1948, the new government of the Union of Burma used the complex to house various ministries and government departments. The Secretariat then became known as the “Minister’s Office.”

Over the next few decades, the administrative center of power was shifted to other buildings and the “Ministers’ Office” was left to fall into disrepair.

The Minister’s Office

For over 120 years it has the epicenter of countless changes in the political progression of Myanmar.

It contains the Yangon Parliament House where Burma’s self-rule first began and its West Wing is the location of the assassination of General Aung San, the father of Modern Myanmar, and 6 cabinet members on 19 July 1947.

After Independence in 1948, the new government of the Union of Burma used the complex to house various ministries and government departments. The Secretariat then became known as the “Minister’s Office.”

Over the next few decades, the administrative center of power was shifted to other buildings and the “Ministers’ Office” was left to fall into disrepair.

The Beginning of the Renovations

When the Myanmar government relocated the capital to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005, the complex was mostly abandoned and left to decay behind locked gates and imposing fences.

The Secretariat Yangon was one of five buildings selected by the Ministry of Construction to undergo basic in 2011.

The roofing, which had been damaged during Cyclone Nargis in 2008, was replaced with temporary fixtures. During the process the majority of the roof frames, which were built of good quality teak, were found to be intact. 

Soil testing was also conducted and showed that the Southern Wing had subsided by 21 inches in the decades after it was built. That sinking appears to have stabilized, but this left the building with structural challenges that need to be addressed.

In February 2012, seven local companies and three foreign companies submitted proposals to the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) on ideas for the future usage of the complex.

Anawmar Art Group was chosen to shepherd the property for the next 70 years under the guidance of historians, curators and the Yangon Heritage Trust.