This research is based on the ongoing debate on the strengths and challenges brought about by the so-called ‘digital revolution’ in the field of the conservation of Cultural Built Heritage. Within this framework, this study analyzes how the dynamic relationship between tangible and intangible heritage strongly affects the understanding of a site as cultural heritage. This relationship influences the conservation actions adopted by conservators and decision makers and shapes the values that drive, and impact on, conservation choices.
The complex relationships between tangible and intangible dimensions of cultural heritage have been, until recently, surprisingly underestimated in scientific research. A possible explanation lies in the limited amount of multidimensional and interdisciplinary approaches applied by scholars of different disciplines, often interested in a sectoral analysis of either the tangible or the intangible dimensions of cultural built heritage. The research moves in the direction of integrating such dimensions through a comprehensive approach. The project aims at demonstrating that an understanding of the role of intangible dimensions of built heritage can orient the conservation process, moving towards a more inclusive approach based on the respect for different context-based perspectives and interpretations of the cultural dimensions of heritage conservation, preservation, and restoration.
The research hypothesis is that digital documentation workflows have a strong potential for integrating different sources of information, based on both qualitative and quantitative analysis, by processing and integrating knowledge about tangible and intangible dimensions of built heritage. The research proposes an enhanced approach, called WikiBIM, which builds on a combination of rapid ethnographic appraisal methods and IT-supported techniques for data acquisition, processing, and management.
The research approach is tested on the concrete case of the Loka-hteik-pan temple in Bagan, Myanmar. Conclusions about the effectiveness of the approach highlight the importance of integrating local knowledge, sometimes transmitted only through oral means, in mainstream digital design tools, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), in order to improve the social, cultural and environmental sustainability of built heritage conservation.