As the parliament began its autumn legislative agenda, the government budget for the year revealed several line items financing the demolition of the city’s Natural History Museum, Opera and Ballet House, Drama Theatre, and Central Library. The Natural History Museum is expected to be demolished first, on 30 October. The buildings set for demolition are some of the city’s most beautiful.
While recent years have brought the growth of high-rise developments and cement flat blocks, these endangered historic buildings have Grecian-style pillars set against ornate and brightly coloured facades. The interior of the Drama Theatre is filled with chandeliers, arched doorways, and elaborate floor tiling. A night out to the ballet is also a treat – the beautiful interior and world-class performances draw tourists and residents alike.
The buildings were constructed according to an urban plan; they surround Sukhbaatar Square – the city’s central gathering point – and each is a short walk from the government palace. They represent a time of transition in Mongolia’s history. While under Soviet influence, Mongolians planned a city centred around culture and knowledge.
The Mongolian government has justified their decision by explaining that the buildings are architecturally unsound and could be susceptible to seismic activity. They have attempted to assuage citizens’ outcry by promising to rebuild the museum in a similar design in a location in the far southern portion of the city, notably in an area that is meant to be an undeveloped nature preserve. If the museums are rebuilt there, reaching them from the downtown area is likely to mean long hours of sitting in traffic, which will make cultural activities less accessible and is likely to dissuade potential visitors.