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Rangoon's Creative Side

October 14, 2014


An artistic revolution is taking place on the docks of the Rangoon River. By Fiona McGregor. Photographed by Greg Holland.

Published on Oct 14, 2014

 

At first glance, it's an unlikely setting for Rangoon's creative mainstay. Transit Shed No. 1, known as TS1, is a 350-square-meter warehouse made of paintchipped concrete and timeworn corrugated metal sheets. Boat horns blare as a steady stream of raggedshirted porters unload heavy cargo from ships that line the banks of the Rangoon River. But step inside, and you find a building transformed into what the creators hope will be the start of a cultural rejuvenation of the Rangoon port. Architect Dominic Leong embraced the gritty industrial surroundings of the docks with the building's exterior, but the interior is clean and modern. Angular crisp white walls are the showcase for pop-up art gallery displays by Burmese contemporary artists like Phyoe Kyi, while the warehouse space houses a rotating program of local stores, like the Myanmar Made brand, all celebrating the high-end possibilities of Burma's design culture.

Transit Shed No. 1
The exterior of Transit Shed No. 1 belies the space within.

TS1 represents a distinctive new turn for Rangoon, tapping into what its founders say was a demand for a stylish location where people can view, purchase and experience innovative arts, crafts and foods from Burma and beyond. In a nation just opening up after years under an oppressive regime, the re-emerging arts scene is appearing in different forms. While TS1 is clearly more about style than subversion, it represents a growing confidence in the marketability and high quality of Burmese arts.

The idea, according to founder Ivan Pun, the Oxford-educated son of well-known Burmese real-estate magnate Serge Pun, is that culture, commerce and cuisine are the three anchors in a space where events, retailers and menus change regularly.

Transit Shed No. 1
Modern art and design inside Transit Shed No. 1

"It shows you don't have to journey out of the country to get [internationalstandard] art and crafts," says Nathalie Johnston, director of exhibitions.

As well as the main exhibitions, which revolve every six to eight weeks, TS1 also hosts one-off evening events promoting the work of emerging artists including music nights and performance art events.

Something of a local secret for now, it is undoubtedly more popular with resident expats and Burmese people than tourists and holidaymakers. It attracts a clientele that runs the gamut from wealthy expats to the trendsetting offspring of Burma's renowned business elite, all flocking to see young creative types showing off their talents. The goods on sale vary as widely as the crowd it draws and visitors can spend anywhere from US$20 on trinkets to thousands of dollars on hand-crafted furniture and paintings, depending on which retailer is operating from the space at any given time.

Transit Shed No. 1
Pun + Projects, the team behind TS1.

Meanwhile, TS1 owners are preparing for the final stage of their cultural triumvirate with the official launch of Port Autonomy, the bistro-cum-bar in an adjoining building. It will offer a modern take on the traditional Burmese teashop during the day with classic dishes such as mohingya fish noodle soup served along with experimental fare from guest chefs, while evenings will focus on wines and ales. The eatery is slated to open this month, promising a marriage of cuisine, culture and cold beer.

Transit Shed No. 1; Lanthit Jetty, Rangoon; +95 1 248 908; ts1yangon.com.

 

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