Research Thrusts

Research Groups

  • K-Pop Culture
  • Past Research Thrusts

    Current Projects

    Earlier Funded Projects

    Non-funded Projects


    Architectural Heritage in Brunei Darussalam

    Full Title : Architectural Heritage in Brunei Darussalam: Safeguarding, Identity and Sustainability

    Funding Amount : BND 57,900

    Start Date : Oct 2020

    Completion Date : Sept 2022

    Principal Investigators : Dr Rui Oliveira Lopes and Dr Owais Ahmed Mailk (Faculty of Science)

    Co-investigators : Dr Hjh Asiyah Az-zahra Haji Ahmad Kumpoh, Dr Chester Keasberry, Dr Ong Wee Hong (Faculty of Science), Dr Shirley Chin Wei Lee, and Dr Yong Liu.

    Research Assistant : Dk Nurul Kamaliah

    Research Summary

    The UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention, ratified by Brunei Darussalam in 2011, recognises the universal value of cultural heritage monuments, groups of buildings, and historical sites from the point of view of cultural history, design, science and technology. Historical buildings are not simply human made structures, but rather an expression of cultural identities, principles of governance, religious beliefs, and also stands as a carrier of collective memories. An architectural heritage should be interpreted as an ‘artefact’ in relation to the formative process of cultural expressions.

    This research project intends to understand the cultural, stylistic and historical significance of architectural heritage in Brunei Darussalam in order to ensure its safeguarding and sustainability. For this project we focus on the use of digital technologies to support the surveying and archival analysis of architectural heritage in Brunei Darussalam. Through the methods of digital humanities, this project endeavour is focused on the documentation (geometric, architectural, historical) through 2D and 3D drawings, creating digital and interactive maps for geo-spatial, contextual, and phenomenological navigation to locate architectural heritage. This project aims to make an inventory of architectural heritage in Brunei and use digital humanities to create an interactive and open access platform designed for education, conservation, cultural management, safeguarding awareness, social responsibility, and tourism development.


    This research project aims to:

    Status and Relevance of the Research

    The technological development of computer systems since the 1960’s has enabled new approaches towards humanistic and social sciences research, from linguistic analysis to heritage visualization and digital archives. Digital Humanities also plays a significant role in the mediation of knowledge providing environments and tools for generating more knowledge, curate and enabling interaction with digital users. The use of digital humanities in architectural heritage is strongly related with the principle of preservation of tangible heritage (architectural and cultural artefacts) and the modelling / reconstructing of archaeological sites and architectural modelling. The use of digital tools enables not only the re-presentation and visualization, but also the manipulation of data related to historical buildings and archaeological sites in their original form. The use of digital humanities in the context of heritage studies has also been effective in the interrogation and data analysis, and increasingly used as a carrier for multimedia research and teaching / learning activities.

    The application of digital humanities research methods in relation with human made structures is pioneered by archaeologists whose study is mostly focused in materials remains of the past. During the archaeological survey artefacts are unearthed from their physical context and in most cases, the built environment is partially or completed destroyed. Recording and reconstructing the physical environment is fundamental to the interpretative process of artefacts, architectural structures and historical sites. Although the use of computers to record archaeological surveys and for data baking dates back to the 1950’s, it was only in the 1970’s that graphic visualization such as computer-generated maps and digital terrains were developed. Computer generated maps were later crossed with geographic information system (GIS) software as a visual aid to analyse archaeological data. The great leap was given with computer-assisted design (CAD) software and the democratization of personal computers towards the end of 1980’s. CAD programmes allowed the reconstitution of plans and elevations generated at various scales. More recently, the larger premise of CAD lay in the ability to generate drawings based on full 3D geometry of architectural structures and sites (Berndt and Carlos, 2000; Al-kheder and Haala, 2009; El-Hakim, and Picard, 2002, Bur, 2001).

    Over the last decades, the development of computer systems and optical technologies enabled the creation of photorealistic images that unveil irregularities of real structures, dirt and grime, marks of age and deterioration. Scholars have been using digital photogrammetry and 3D modelling to assess and evaluate conservation issues in architectural heritage as photographs and 3-D digitizers can be used to provide 3-D geometry of objects as well as colour and tone. Architectural buildings can be modelled with these techniques so that archaeologists and architecture historians can see – and rotate and measure – fully 3-D representations of objects on a computer (Brusaporci, 2015; 2017; Chadli, 2016; Cigola, 2016; Münster, 2018; Peña-Villasenín, 2017).

    Gradually, scholars have been using close-range photogrammetry and architectural photogrammetry techniques as a new academic experiment in digital architectural heritage education (Baik, 2018). However, frequently these research projects are mostly focused in the education of engineering students and not utilize architectural heritage to design educational programmes to convey and mediate related historical and cultural knowledge. Nonetheless, scholars and museum curators occasionally utilize 3D modelling, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality for educational purposes to enhance visitor experience, enable interactivity, and facilitate visualization and historical contextualization of the objects in exhibition display (Ferrari, 2017; Rechichi, 2016; Zara 2014; Wojciechowski, 2004; Bersanti, 2015).

    Although the use of computer technologies and visualisation methodologies in the study of architectural heritage and towards the development of tourism industries has seen a considerable growth, an integrated approach concentrated in the documentation of architectural heritage and related historical-cultural context designed to enable academic research in the areas of heritage, history, education and tourism remains unexplored. In the context of Brunei Darussalam, the application of digital humanities methodologies and the study of architectural heritage are still to be developed and fully explored.

    Novelty of the Research

    Over the past few decades, humanistic inquiry has been problematized and invigorated by the emergence of what is referred to as the digital humanities. Across multiple disciplines, from history to literature, religious studies to philosophy, archaeology to music, scholars are tapping the extraordinary power of digital technologies to preserve, curate, analyse, visualize, and reconstruct their research objects.

    Scholars are making daily use of digital tools and repositories including private and state-sponsored archives of textual sources, digitized manuscript collections, densitometrical imaging, visualization and modelling software, and various forms of data mining and analysis. Across the distinctive disciplinary areas within the humanities and social sciences, scholars have been exploring areas such as digitization, visualization, text mining, databases, mapping, and e-publication to disseminate knowledge and create a platform for transdisciplinary approaches.

    The methodological framework of this project is grounded in a humanistic criticism through the curation of digital contents, collection of repositories and scholarly narratives supported by digitised primary materials. It also uses cultural analytics, through interactive and narrativized image and computer visualisations (Burdick et alli, 2012).

    For this research project we will utilize geo-referencing and web-mapping to document architectural heritage in Brunei Darussalam and it will use digital photogrammetry and 3D scanning for digital modelling of existent and non-existent architectural heritage. Afterwards, the data will be analysed and visualised as objects of study for the development of architectural styles in relation with the historical and cultural contexts of Brunei. Scholars from various disciplinary areas will examine how architectural heritage in Brunei reflects the historical, artistic, religious, ethnic, and linguistic aspects in Bruneian identity. Finally, the data will be utilized to design digital contents tailored for various levels of education according with the national curriculum to convey knowledge about the history, culture, language, and traditions in Brunei Darussalam. Likewise, the data will be also utilised to build digital platforms to develop the tourist visitor experience through the use of AR and VR.

    This approach to digital humanities is original not only in its applicability to study Brunei architectural heritage, but also in its holistic approach, from the use of digital photogrammetry and 3D scanning for modelling, to the development of educational, heritage, and tourism digital contents to convey academic research and knowledge on history and culture of Brunei Darussalam to a broader audience.

    Expected Outcomes and Benefits to Brunei Darussalam

    The expected outcomes of this research project are mainly divided in two: commercial development products and academic publications.

    One of the outcomes are commercial development products tailored for education and tourism sectors. The research team will develop one website portal and one mobile applications. The website portal will give access to a database of Architectural Heritage in Brunei Darussalam and will offer a range of e-learning possibilities. The mobile applications will offer similar features but additional features utilising geo-referencing, AR/VR, and AI will be added in the future.

    The aims of this research project are in line national development plans in regard to education and tourism development as well as the preservation of Bruneian traditions and cultural identity. The study of architecture and spatial design and its historical and cultural factors are also related to the upholding of national pride, national values, and social health. The research outcomes of this project are strongly oriented to commercial exploitation in the education and tourism sectors, simultaneously contributing to the creation of commercial opportunities in the information and communication technology (ICT) area related with AR/VR and AI. Additionally, this project also contributes to the popularization of low-cost methods for 3D scanning which can be replicated in other sectors of economy such as construction, forestry, agriculture and public safety. It is planned to host a special workshop training session on digital photogrammetry and 3D heritage scanning.

    Lastly, for this research project two research assistants will be recruited and given the opportunity to develop professional experience in both historical / artistic archival research and computer technologies.

    Research Outcomes


    Lopes, R. O. (2021). Community arts and urban heritage during the COVID-19 lockdown: The case of urban sketching. in O. Ho & B. Lim (Eds.), Critical approaches to community arts (pp. 85-104). The Chinese University of Hong Kong. DOI: 10.54165/9789887928522/07

    Lopes, R. O., & Hasnan, N. (2021). The expression of cultural identity in mosque architecture in Brunei Darussalam. TRaNS: Trans -Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia, 1-20.

    Lopes, R. O., Owais Ahmed Malik, Asiyah Az-Zahra Ahmad Kumpoh, Keasberry, C., Ong, W. H., Chin, W. L., & Liu, Y. (2019). Exploring digital architectural heritage in Brunei Darussalam: Towards heritage safeguarding, smart tourism, and interactive education. In 2019 IEEE Fifth International Conference on Multimedia Big Data (BigMM) (pp. 383–390).

    Conference Papers

    Exploring digital architectural heritage in Brunei Darussalam: Towards heritage safeguarding, smart tourism, and interactive education, 2019 IEEE Fifth International Conference on Multimedia Big Data (BigMM), Singapore, 11-13 September 2019.