Sunrise in Bagan - one of Asia’s most famous Buddhist sites. Originally built during the 11th to 13th centuries, the old city of kings comprises more than 3,000 Buddhist monuments (Photo: Clara Rellensmann) In October Clara Rellensmann and Laura Hernandez (Department of Architectural Conservation), Karen Eisenloffel (Department of Building Structures and Structural Systems), Miller Stevens (Department of Urban Planning and Urban Design) and architect Jens Casper went to Myanmar to teach an interdisciplinary conservation studio at the ancient temple city of Bagan. The DAAD-funded Summer School »Studio Bagan« was organized by BTU’s Department of Architectural Conservation in cooperation with the Architecture Department of the Yangon Technological University (YTU) and the Association of Myanmar Architects. For two weeks, 37 students of Architecture and World Heritage Studies immersed themselves into the context of Bagan. This was the second exploratory trip to Bagan, after a successful field trip in November 2017.
As the site is being prepared for World Heritage listing, any new facilities that are inserted into this sacred urban landscape must not have any adverse impacts on the site’s cultural significance, meaning its heritage values and respective tangible and intangible attributes. In this context, the students worked in intercultural and interdisciplinary teams to identify a broad range of problems related to the rapid growth in tourism at the site. Throughout the two-week summer school they developed ideas, management concepts and designs that responded to these problems. In public consultations, the students got a chance to discuss their work with local stakeholders in Bagan. Apart from Bagan, the summer school participants also got to explore the surroundings such as the grand Irrawaddy River, the satellite city Salay with its impressive colonial mansions, monasteries and pagodas, as well as, Mount Popa, which is one of Myanmar’s most sacred pilgrimage sites as it is considered the birthplace of the widely worshipped »nats« (spirits).
The results of the students’ work will be compiled in a publication and shared with partners in Myanmar to make a contribution to the sustainable conservation of this future World Heritage Site. Beyond the DAAD-summer school, the Department of Architectural Conservation is planning to continue its collaboration with partners in Myanmar to enable academic exchange of students and lecturers, as well as, continued applied research projects in Bagan.
»Studio Bagan was really interesting and eye-opening at the same time, I got to know new perspectives on cultural preservation of a heritage site. The ancient city of Bagan is a place where the past and present meets, a place full of kindness and spirit, a truly living heritage site. I had the chance to get familiar with a very different culture, views and people, developed my team-working skills and broadened my horizon. Thanks to my participation in the DAAD-summer school I can see things differently. I spent two weeks in Myanmar, but I came back with experiences that will last my whole life.« Anna Farkas (BTU student)
»The DAAD-Summer School in Bagan was one of the most incredible experiences I ever had. As a World Heritage Studies student, being in such a historic and incredible archaeological site, and contributing to the research of it, meant a lot to me. The enriching part was to be there with local Myanmar students and share our experiences, our background, and knowledge, and also work side by side with them. I learned a lot from the students and from the Summer School. I would definitely like to go back to Myanmar and try to contribute to the study of the site.« Martín Polo (BTU student)
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