Students use AI to preserve Lahaina’s historical architecture

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Brent T Suyama, (808) 492-0597
Associate Director, Office of Communications
Posted: Mar 25, 2024

Wo Hing Society Hall virtual reconstruction.
Wo Hing Society Hall virtual reconstruction.
The original Wo Hing Society Hall.
The original Wo Hing Society Hall.

In response to the devastating Maui wildfires in 2023, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Architecture students are learning to digitally restore individual buildings in Lahaina using cutting-edge technologies such as virtual 3D modeling and artificial intelligence (AI). 

The course, ARCH 490: Rebuilding Lahaina in Mixed Reality, focuses on “preservation through memory and engagement through sharing.” The course is designed to impart technical skills and foster a deep appreciation for the historical and cultural context of Lahaina. In this context, students had the opportunity to speak with experts from the Hawaiʻi State Preservation Department and the architectural practitioners to discuss potential stakeholders involved in rebuilding the architectural heritage.

“This project allows students to understand the importance of historical preservation through studying what happened in Lahaina and understanding the human connection to a place/building, or the sense of place,” said Joyce Lin, an architecture student currently enrolled in the course. “We can also utilize existing technology to recreate historical and existing buildings, allowing people to experience the space and environment even from far away and possibly even assist in future developments and reconstructions of buildings.” 

“I think that this project is important for architecture students in the sense that it offers us a different pathway. One might think that architecture is all about new designs and new buildings, but sometimes it can be about saving/preserving old ones,” said Karly Tangonan, an architecture student currently enrolled in the course.

Incorporating AI in historical preservation

The integration of digital model-making and AI has opened new possibilities for preserving architectural history, providing accessibility for students to appreciate the rich history of Lahaina. Some of the buildings students have been designing in mixed reality include Wo Hing Society Hall, Masters Reading Room, Baldwin House and Old Lahaina Courthouse.

“I think this class has changed the way I look at digital model-making and AI, and I have gained an appreciation for what this could offer for the future of historic preservation,” said Jennifer Rodriguez Flores, an architecture student currently enrolled in the course.

The course is helping to shape future architects who are equipped with both traditional and cutting-edge skills, ready to contribute to the preservation and evolution of architectural history.

“Prior to this course, I was not familiar with the concept of AI and the opportunities that it held,” said Michelle Lee, an architecture student currently enrolled in the course. “However, it has offered a hands-on approach to rebuilding Lahaina through digital modeling and AI to provide an immersive experience to users.”

This collaborative effort involves Dean William Chapman and Professor Hyoung-June Park in the School of Architecture, and Professor Kyung Hoon Hyun, a design computing specialist from Hanyang University in Korea.


Wo Hing Society Hall (Phase Animation) -
The Master's Reading Room (Phase Animation) -
Baldwin House (Phase Animation) -