Studio Bagan

International Exchange, Teaching
YTU Yangon and Bagan, Myanmar; BTU Cottbus
Program: Mapping, Architectural Design, Making Heritage
Year: since 2018 Status: Ongoing
Tags: teaching, research

Studio Bagan is supported by
DAAD German Academic Exchange Service
Federal Ministry of Research and Education, Germany

Studio Bagan was initiated by Clara Rellensmann together with Luise Rellensmann, Jens Casper, Karen Eisenloffel, J. Miller Stevens, Pwint (†), and Theingi Shwe, between BTU Cottbus and YTU Yangon. It was conceived as an interdisciplinary preservation design studio that fosters applied knowledge transfer in the fields of heritage preservation, urban and regional planning and designing/building/architecture. At the same time, it aims at contributing to the discourse on the preservation of Bagan – Myanmar’s signature tourist destination and since 2020 World Heritage site.

Central to the studios is the idea of heritage-making and preservation as a formative urban and architectural process of engagement and negotiation. Another aim of Studio Bagan is therefore to sensitize future planners, architects and heritage professionals to the multiple perspectives on and social dynamics of value attribution to the built environment.
Initiated in 2017, three studios have been held. Studios in 2017 and 2018 were implemented as summer schools with an intensive field component during which students immersed themselves into Bagan for a few weeks.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Bagan has been facing radically different problems than those associated with mass tourism. Due to the sudden halt of global tourism, many people in Bagan and all of Myanmar are struggling to make ends meet due to a lack on income from tourism. In addition to the problems caused by the global pandemic, a radical change in Myanmar’s political environment has added an extra strain for the people of Bagan and all of Myanmar. Since the military coup d'état on February 1, 2021, peaceful demonstrations have been brutally constrained by the. police and military with many people arrested, detained, injured or killed throughout the county, including numerous violent incidents and casualties in Bagan as well.

Despite this, Studio Bagan has continued its activities. Mobility funds have been used to enable students to study in Germany . The most recent studio employed blended learning and was implemented as a four-week online “winter school” that took place in November and December 2021. The winter school hosted many guest lectures and worked around power shortages and temporarily blocked internet services in Myanmar.

So far, Studio Bagan has involved more than 70 participants from seventeen different countries with varying academic backgrounds including architecture, urban planning, archaeology and heritage studies .

The preservation studios in 2018 and 2021 were funded by the summer school programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The studios were embedded in a longer-term partnership and exchange programme between the Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU) and the Yangon Technological University (YTU) and supported by the ERASMUS+mobility Programme.

Studio Bagan 2017 and 2018 closely collaborated with BTU Cottbus and YTU Yangon, the Association of Myanmar Architects as well as with the Department of Archaeology (Bagan Branch), Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (Bagan Branch), Yangon Heritage Trust, the NGO Tourism Transparency and the Goethe Institute Myanmar.

Studio Bagan 2017: Building in Heritage Context
Studio Bagan 2018: Heritage Tourism – Conflicts and Chances
Studio Bagan 2020 funded, cancelled due to Covid-19
Studio Bagan 2021 (Online): Constructing Counter- Narratives

Team Studio Bagan 2021
Jens Casper, Clara Rellensmann (lead coordinator), Luise Rellensmann, Prof. Karen Eisenloeffel, Prof. J. Miller Stevens (BTU Cottbus); Student staff: Shwe Hlaing Win, Kaung Khant Kyaw Swar; Guest Lecturers: Theingi Shwe (YTU Yangon), Johanna Blokker (BTU Cottbus), Katelyn Williams (BTU Cottbus), Nora Wuttke (SOAS University of London), Konrad Frommelt (BTU Cottbus), Felix Girke (Uni Konstanz),
Moritz Henning (SEAM Encorunters), with students from YTU Yangon and BTU Cottbus

Team Studio Bagan 2018
Jens Casper, Clara Rellensmann (lead coordinator), Prof. Karen Eisenloeffel, V.-Prof. J. Miller Stevens (BTU Cottbus), Prof. Dr. Pwint†, Dr Wint Tin Htut Latt, Langa Hkawng Zawng (Khaung Zaung), Htet Htet Lwin, Hnin Wint Ye (YTU Yangon); with students from YTU Yangon, BTU Cottbus and TU Berlin, in collaboration with AMA Association of Myanmar Architects, Goethe Institute Yangon, Myanmar, Tourism Transparenc, Yangon Heritage Trust, Myanmar Department of Archaeology , Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MoHT) Bagan Branc, Alowdawpyi Monastery, Sharky’s Bagan

Katelyn Williams, Laura Hernandez, Wint Tin Htut Latt, Aung Zaw Min, Htet Htet Lwin, Hnin Wint Ye, Nandar Linn, Khaung Zaung, U Sun Oo, Rodolfo Luján, Franz Xaver Augustin and Petra Kühl, Nora Wuttke, Rupert Mann, Andrea Valentin, Johanna Blokker, Felix Girke, Moritz Henning, Alexander Römer (Constructlab), Konrad Frommelt, Shwe Hlaing Win, Kaung Khant Kyaw Swar, as well as more than 70 highly motivated and creative students whose names we cannot display here due to data protection laws.

Clara Rellensmann, Karen Eisenloeffel, Miller Stevens, Jens Casper (ed.):
Studio Bagan: Heritage Tourism - Conflicts and Chances.
Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus-Senftenberg,
IKMZ-Universitätsbibliothek, 2019; ISBN:978-3-940471-47-5