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2017 ACEH VERNADOC Project

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This research was triggered by the condition that architectural heritage in Banda Aceh is at risk caused by past disasters that destroyed heritage buildings and archives, and from historical and current research that it is evident that Banda Aceh id under continuous disaster hit. This condition is exacerbated by lack of the detail documentation of architectural heritage. In addition, there is lack of integration between existing humanities research and modern technologies through digital humanities in studying the impact of lost of built environment to human trauma. Due to the 2004 Tsunami Disaster in Banda Aceh, there was significant loss of heritage buildings and archives, such as regional archive and Pusat Dokumentasi dan Informasi Aceh/PDIA hold large numbers Acehnese archive. In addition, this had delayed decision-making and reconstruction process. In addition, some architectural heritage reconstruction during the rehabilitation and reconstruction process has been undertaken with minimal conservation approach and principles. For example, the reconstruction of Peulanggahan Mosque, the last example of mosque from pre-colonial era, has been undertaken in poor conservation by changing its materials and details. This has changed its architectural values and consequently has caused the deletion of this mosque from Badan Pelestarian Cagar Budaya (BPCB) list. BPCB as former sponsor the mosque conservation has terminated the funding.

Unlike the prior researches and inventories on architectural heritage in Aceh which are stored in hardcopy, so that they are easily damaged by disasters, fragmented and unpublished, this research is conducted under digital humanities method which integrate some basic humanities research strategies such as interviewing people to gain oral history, investigating archive in potential libraries and undertaking detail measures and drawings, information and photos with new technology such as BIM, GIS, Animation Video which will be published on interactive website and smartphone application. The online digital data is permanent and less vulnerable for disaster destruction. Thus, the data is accessible for not only public decision maker such as architects and urban planners, and researchers but also community in the whole. This will give opportunity for community to be informed about the importance of their heritage buildings and to keep such documentation longer for future generation.

This research is imperative for Banda Aceh as it is one of the cities most affected during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and earthquake, which destroyed communities in more than five countries. Indeed it is to date one of the largest natural disasters in the 21st century. In Aceh, the loss of human life was somewhere between 130,000 to 170,000 deaths, about 250,000 houses were destroyed (Kenny et al, 2010, p.3) and over 500,000 people were made homeless and displaced (Ananta & Onn, 2007, p.1). This disaster also caused the collapses of the local government and the economy of Aceh, and impacted the agricultural and fisheries sector, and infrastructure such as roads, bridges, electricity, and telecommunication. Key heritage buildings were also destroyed. The survivors suffered not only the loss of the built environment, but also the loss of beloved people and places, apart from the effect of the disaster on themselves, as many survivors were hospitalized for injuries and some lost their jobs, homes and other crucial elements of their lives. In addition, the destruction Acehnese archive has added another loss to past. Therefore, this research aims to bring back this archive from overseas to Aceh and to digitalize the survived architecture of Banda Aceh.

Figure 2: Map of Banda Aceh

Source: Bustanussalatin map and Google images

As a 800 years old city does not have many heritage building on list except a couple from pre-and post-Islamic Kingdom, some from colonial era, and Tsunami time. The absence of physical and written evidence of Banda Aceh has leaved the city lack of evidence of its great past (Dewi, 2015). Leumik (2008) in his book Potret Sejarah Banda Aceh, has documented the changes and loss of built heritage in Banda Aceh. Acehnese traditional houses (Rumoh Aceh), Chinese shophouses in Peunayong, jengki houses are amongst endangered buildings, but they reflect the resilience of Acehnese against wars and disasters. These buildings have been replaced with modern buildings. Therefore, documentation of survived buildings of different eras is imperative because they are amongst remaining evidences of the greatness of Acehnese past and contribute to sense of resilience from trauma. For example, Acehnese houses are example of how local tradition adapts with environment and disaster threats. The houses are resistant to earthquake, flooding, and fire (see Lombard, 1991). This research, in the light of disasters, aims to produce online digital archive of architectural heritage on interactive website and smartphone application. This research is part of initial disaster relief response to cultural heritage at risk as mandated by UNESCO, Program Kota Pusaka of Banda Aceh (Heritage City Program), and tourism development. To do this, this research investigates existing archival data and oral history, and undertakes detail measuring and drawing of architectural heritage using VERNADOC Method. All of data then are turned into digital archives in several representations such as scanned copy drawing and digital narratives, Building Information Modeling (BIM), animation video (3D max), and Geographical Information System (GIS). This research will be published at several potential journals with good impact in the field such as International Journal of Architectural Heritage and International Journal of Heritage Studies. This research is timely significant for four interrelated reasons. Firstly, architectural heritage in Banda Aceh is at risk as suggested by its historical disaster record. In addition, the destruction caused by the 2004 Tsunami Disaster has evidenced this disaster threat and there are predicted that disasters will come periodically in the future. Secondly, The online interactive digital archives are accessible for everyone, especially tourists and young generation of Acehnese; so that the sense of identity and collective memory is fostered. Thirdly, the online data is permanent and less vulnerable to disaster destruction, will benefit future conservation, urban planning, future research, community and tourists. Fourthly, this research will move from conventional heritage mapping and inventories to incorporate new technologies in research and new approaches such as those applied in digital humanities. Therefore it is able to give a new sense and insight against existing inventory data which are not sufficient to document heritage buildings as they only capture some basic information such as ownership, short biography, and photos and are stored in hardcopy with limited access. It brings together existing humanities research and technology development.

The researche will be conducted under Vernacular Knowledge Research Group (VKRG) and the MoU will be signed on 7 July 2017 at Australian Embassy, Jakarta. The partners under VKRG umbrella are expanded. University of South Australia, University of Indonesia, and Syiah Kuala University, invite also the Association of Siamese Architects-VERNADOC, University of Udayana, and the Oral Traditions Association to join the group. Under this collaboration, the lecturers of Syiah Kuala University gain national and international recognition, increasing citation index through publication at International recognized journals, and extending the network internationally. In addition, this research will provide international working experience for involving students of Syiah Kuala University and mobility students from and to partner countries Australia, Indonesia, and Thailand.



Research Aims

This project will develop an interactive multi-modal research method and tool for recording, and safe- guarding memories of built cultural heritage. The first “tool” application proposed is for Aceh, Indonesia in post-disaster reconstruction, to re-educate and re- familiarize traumatized communities about their lost social infrastructure (traditional houses, community/ religious buildings, and socio-cultural practices). Our architectural ethnographic data capturing and inter- disciplinary production of the tool, encourages holistic cross-cultural understandings of these environments through periodic onsite cultural immersion of Australian and Indonesian institutional partners and Thai NGOs. Data sets from manual drawings, documentary film-making, community interviews will be converted to 3-D modelled, virtual/augmented reality environments, easily retrievable locally, and globally accessible via a multi-modal platform. This work extends local skill sets in testing and developing the tool as well as safeguards cultural heritage memories for a sense of belonging and identity. It empowers disaster victims with knowledge and informed pathways for reconstructing their future environments.


Using Vernadoc Method a building is measure and re-drawing in scale and details. In 2017, this research will document Rumoh Aceh and followed by shophouses in Peunayong and jengki houses in 2018. In 2019, it will document timber houses and Indrapuri mosque. Vernadoc survey will be undertaken for 2 weeks, one week for the measuring and basic drawing, and one week for finishing of the drawings in ink. Vernadoc method is a method invited in Finland and recently widely used as method for detail inventory of heritage buildings. There are several advantages of using this method:

  • Easy to learn and work with
  • Low-tech - no need for electricity or expensive tools
  • Precise enough for scientific work
  • Fast - by doing the necessary and nothing more
  • Cheap, because of the use of simple tools and only little work
  • Drawings that have been made in this process can easily make even a layman understand that the local tradition is valuable and an important part in the vernacular tradition of the whole world.


Research Roadmap



Below is the link for the drawings