The Vernacular Knowledge Research Group aims to conduct teaching and research activities around the conservation and recording of built and intangible cultural heritage at risk, prepared via methods such as VERNADOC (vernacular documentation method of manual measured architectural drawing onsite) and architectural anthropological and ethnographical methods and recording tacit knowledge through digital platforms.

Our Focus

These methods will contribute to a specialist research group based at UniSA focusing on the following Research Themes:

  • Vernacular & neo-vernacular environments
  • Oral Traditions
  • Intangible Heritage & Representation
  • Digital Humanities
  • Post-Disaster Reconstruction
  • Social Infrastructure
  • Architectural anthropology and ethnography
  • Tacit knowledge
  • Memory Theatres


Our Mission

This work presents a unique opportunity to incorporate our shared interests in built environments' research in Southeast Asia, currently concentrating on Indonesia and Thailand around built cultural heritage and architectural representation, in additon to educating our students. Moving between skill-sets of historical knowledge, immerisve on-site measuring whilst producing architectural drawings and teaching this know-how to students, brings together aspects of the best of academic and professional worlds.

The proposed research and teaching methodologies involve working and learning alongside students and colleagues in the field, to utilise this insight for ways to work with heritage buildings whilst offering contemporary solutions for adaptive reuse opportunities. The capacity to opt for adaptive reuse projects above "new-builds" also addresses our collective passions of sustainability for the future of the architectural industry.

Internationally in Southeast Asia and nationally in Australia, it has been our experiences, that there are limited examples of the successful architectural integration of heritage buildings with contemporary functions. This is an area which needs further research and focus in architectural design schools in this region. Appropriate, functional and aesthetic solutions enabling a mix of heritage with contemporary design are necessary for a sustainable approach to future built environments. To expand understandings of the value of eclectic built forms and what they may offer for contemporary requirements through adpative reuse processes. In this sense, "heritage" does not necessarily constitute “old” it could be a notable built form from the last decade and present opporutnites for innovative design solutions for the future.


  • House 4

  • House 3

  • House 2

  • House 1

  • Ms Sue Avey

    Drawing by Sue Avey

  • Julie Nichols

    Drawing by Dr Julie Nichols

  • Mr Darren Fong's Drawing

    Drawing by Darren Fong

Teaching/Research Nexus

We have involved students in the production of the built cultural heritage drawings/data. Our first project was undertaken in July 2017 in Aceh Indonesia with UniSA students and an international student contingent of Thai, Indonesian and Acehnese students (from their participant Universities) using the VERNADOC method. We will continue working with all of the NGOs listed previously. In addition, we have a Finnish architect who attended this first drawing camp from the European organisation of VERNADOC.

This is the first Indonesian VERNADOC, prior to this camp the organisation only operated within Thailand and Europe. We hope to bring this method to Australia in 2019 to document our built cultural heritage. This method is very useful for students to learn how to understand and document buildings through onsite cultural immersion using basic tools and conditions to produce drawings. It gives them invaluable insight into the community within which they are working which we define as an architectural ethnographical approach.

This approach is only able to be facilitated on an intensive 2 week study tour, given the limitations of the University timetable. You can access the proposed timeline here.

Classroom Image


Research Collaborators

Please use the button below to see a full list of our local, national and international research collaborators.

Find out more

News and Events

Keep up with news and events from the School of Art, Architecture and Design. 

Find out more

Contact Us

Please contact us during business hours
(9 - 5 Monday to Friday)

Location: City West (K3-14)
Telephone: +61 8 830 20445

Contact Us