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KUTAI is an acronym for The Centre for Knowledge & Understanding of Tropical Architecture & Interior. The word ‘kutai’ is an old Malay word that refers to the traditional Perak Malays house designs called Rumah Kutai or Rumah Tua (literary means old house)

The founding initiative to establish SIG-KUTAI as the Research Centre for the Study of Heritage in Perak was the results of relentless dedication and enthusiasm of several scholars from the Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Surveying at Universiti Teknologi MARA in Seri Iskandar. Thus, SIG-KUTAI or Special Interest Group KUTAI was established in 2000 with the sole purpose to create a platform for the exchange of ideas and knowledge with the noble intention to protect, preserve the diminishing legacy in the pursuit of the broader regional contextualism.

Since its inception in 2000 SIG-KUTAI has undertaken to promote and organize many academic activities such as seminars and workshops to encourage an academic culture that enhances interest in scholarly pursuits within UiTM Perak. In conjunction with the increase in the number of researchers holding PhDs with various expertise, SIG-KUTAI was consequently upgraded by UiTM Perak into a full fledge centre of excellence (COE) in 2009. Since then, COE-KUTAI has played a leading role in promoting various academic activities that further endorse UiTM Perak as a campus with a niche area on Design and Built Environment. This important initiative is seen as a major step towards the recent rebranding exercise of UiTM as a whole in pushing for UiTM Perak to become a fully autonomous university in the very near future.