|Topic of the Month: Feng Shui and Design |
Most of us have heard the term Feng Shui, but it is a complex concept that would be helpful for architects to become familiar with, as its principles can be easily incorporated into architecture, interior design and landscape design.
Ileen Weiss Nelson, President and Founder of New York & Long Island Feng Shui Institute in New York, began her journey from corporate America into Feng Shui in 1997 after reading the book Interior Design with Feng Shui by Lin Yun and Sarah Rossbach. She then went through a training program and became a Certified Feng Shui Consultant and shortly after graduating was offered the position of Director of the school. In 2001, The Long Island Feng Shui Institute was founded, where Nelson and her International Faculty now teaches architectural elements in the Feng Shui Masters Program. She also serves as a Consultant to architects on their projects and assists in looking for site locations and building locations for companies and home owners that wish to relocate.
Feng Shui has roots that can be traced back thousands of years to c. 4000 BC in China. The words "feng" and "shui" literally translate to the words "wind" and "water" in English. One of the world's leading teachers of Feng Shui, Grandmaster Lin Yun, tells us that these words come from an ancient poem that was created to describe the ideal landscape for a site: "The wind is mild, The sun is warm, The water is clear, The vegetation, lush." He claims this was such a popular poem that people began abbreviating it, calling it simply "wind water" or "Feng Shui". Ileen Weiss Nelson explains, "What it's really saying is all those things that you need to help you and to really help sustain you are included in Feng Shui. The wind brings in opportunity and water is something that you need, it's a life giving force and energy."
Feng Shui consultant Master Xu Weili claims that Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater accomplished the traditional Taoist objectives of meeting wind with water, or what the Chinese describe as feng shui, and that Fallingwater represents this ideal in many ways. Nelson says Frank Lloyd Wright's use of natural light and nature in his placement, is very much in line with Feng Shui, although he forgot one major point, which is when there is an imbalance between nature and man, nature always wins. Fallingwater is currently falling apart. Locating the house over the 'falling water' created an instability which goes against the foundations of Feng Shui theory.
"Feng Shui brings people in harmony with their environment, and what I mean by that is that your environment has a great psychological and emotional effect on you, so what's placed in your environment and the way it's placed has an effect on you. It has an effect on your health, on your prosperity, on your growth as a person and also your success in life. Feng Shui was originally used in the agrarian cultures. Every little town had their own feng shui master and their feng shui was based on the symbolism of the structures in their environment, such as where the mountains were. One of the initial feng shui concepts is that the location of a mountain behind you is very important. It would give you support and protection from other neighboring people, in case they wanted to overtake you for your water and land. These masters in each town looked at the shapes and forms in their physical landscape and located the town in a place that was in a commanding position with the mountains behind them and smaller mountains next to them. They also saw the mountains as being their ancestors, and the support of their ancestors in Chinese philosophy is very important."
"There are really hundreds of different types of feng shui based on their towns land forms. The type of feng shui that I teach in my program is called The Black Sect of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, which was brought to this country by Grand Master Lin Yun. It connects the ancient traditions of Feng shui adding spirituality and Western Science and logic (physiology, medicine, psychology, architecture, ecology, social sciences) to bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern knowledge. It something called the five elements theory which connects wind, water, earth, metal and wood. There are also color theories, using colors that connect to each of the five elements. Then we look at the architectural elements in a space, and that space can be your home environment, your work environment, corporate environment, retail space. It can be your work or your home."
The "bagua" is a sort of energy map used in feng shui that divides a space into eight areas, or "guas," that encircle the center. These nine different zones correspond to nine major areas of life - wealth, fame, partnership, family, health, creativity/children, knowledge, career, and helpful people/travel. Using this "map of feng shui," it is possible to evaluate and adjust the environment to maximize greater health and productivity while improving your quality of life. Every space has a bagua. There is a bagua for your plot of land, a bagua for your house, and a bagua for each room within your home. "A lot of people have heard of the bagua as a tool. We place this energetic floorplan over the actual floorplan of the space, or we can lay it over an individual room."
In regard to the shapes of buildings, Ileen Weiss Nelson recommends the square or the rectangle as being ideal. Although, as she explains, "there are ways of adding pieces to those areas to magnify the positive aspects of the space, and there are also some shapes that are considered more good luck shapes. You can take a rectangle and add on a piece, and there are feng shui specific ways to do that and add a design detail that will add extra energy. For example, let's look at a corporate office. If you put an extra piece in the wealth quarter, that would help the finances of the company. Also in a corporate space, you want to pay attention to where you're placing the offices of the CEO's and the owners. They need to be in the most commanding position, which is in the back half of the bagua to be able to control what's going on in the company."
Author Jackie Craven, who writes about home design, historic preservation, and contemporary trends, makes suggestions such as: selecting a level square or rectangular lot; placing your front door so that it is easily accessible from the road, although not in a straight line; building only one front door; avoiding rock gardens or obstructions near the entryway; striving for high, well-lit ceilings; and seeking clean lines and open spaces.
In feng shui, color has the power to shape the way your emotions can fit into a building, within a workspace, within your bedroom, your relationship, and your life. For instance, using pink will help with romance, green is the color of vitality, growth and health, blue is used for wisdom, happiness and tranquility, orange for balance and strength, purple for wealth and red for power, and brown is used for grounding and being in touch with the earth.
Nelson explains, "Overall, the whole concept of green building is very good. Natural building materials are better than manmade materials." Because Feng Shui is based on the Five Elements, when a sector of the building needs to have the Earth element, it's good to add stones like marble, sandstone, granite, or terracotta. The wood element can be used to reduce negative energies, so these can also be incorporated into the interior design.
"Cures may be physical elements that you place in a space to divert, increase, or decrease the chi flow, so we're really looking for the chi and the energy flow to be somewhere in the middle, balanced. We don't want it too fast, too much, or too slow and too little. Cures could mean adding more lights or changing the architectural elements."
Some common feng shui cures are: fountains, aquariums, lights, crystals, mirrors, plants, wind chimes, bells, statues, vases, and money trees. Fountains are very popular in feng shui because they bring the energy of water, the symbol of wealth and prosperity. Crystals are considered powerful feng shui cures and are used to improve the energy flow in various areas of the house or office. Lighting can transform the energy in almost any room, although excessive use of lighting can make people unsettled, hyperactive, anxious and nervous. Some of the most powerful cures may not be visible at all. Space clearing and blessing rituals, can be routinely used in clearing the negative energy of previous occupants, especially in hospitals, nursing homes and restaurants.
"The type of feng shui that I do, explains Nelson, "looks at the energy flow, or "chi" into the space. We also look at a quality of yin and yang, which are kind of opposites where we examine light versus dark, quick versus slow, male versus female, soft versus hard, so we want yin and yang to be balanced in the space. We also look at the shapes in the space. You may have a space that has a lot of points where the walls may not be at 90 degree angles, which is considered bad feng shui and would require a cure."
"Another thing is the psychological thought patterns in the space, the patterns of behavior, the patterns in the home, what has taken place in that space and how that affects you. We say the house is a mirror of yourself, so we're also looking at what happened in the house before you got there. For example, there was a house across the street from me. The family was made up of the husband, the wife and three girls, and they had the house set up a certain way. They put the house on the market and the new owners also happened to be husband, wife and three girls. It was very funny because they had their playroom in their front window and they had a dollhouse in the front window. When the new people came in, they also put a dollhouse in the front window. This is what happens when there are patterns of behavior. There is energy in a space and the new people step into the shoes of the people before. So a lot of times a space will attract the same type of people or repeat a similar life situation."
To cite another example, "there was a restaurant that was at a location for many years. It was a family restaurant that did very well, but they eventually retired and closed the restaurant. When a new restaurant moved in, there were a lot of problems between the chef and the owner and in six months they were out of business. When another restaurant came in, they were also out of business in six months, and then the same thing happened to another restaurant after that. So there was this pattern that changed in between, probably because it was left empty for a while so there was a buildup of yin energy. The second restaurant that moved in was kind of walking in the shoes of the previous one, but when there was conflict there, and then they made some changes in construction, they changed what the family restaurant energy had for so many years. Then the new people didn't clear out the previous energy and then they were stuck in that pattern, and that happens in houses and corporations as well."
"With corporations, I help with planning which departments of the company are situated within a space. When a company is relocating, I help architects design spaces for people to work and live in a more connected and helpful and prosperous way. It all depends on the project. I do everything from cubicles to corporations. Cubicles are the hardest places to do business because they're created in a way where everyone's back is towards oncoming energy. A commanding position is having your back to the wall, and having a solid wall behind you. A cubicle doesn't allow you to do that, so it makes it harder for people to do their work and really get ahead in life. That's a huge challenge."
"In retirement homes, nursing homes and places for the elderly, it's very common for some reason for architects to choose shapes and elements that are not supporting these people in their senior years. When you're looking at the bagua, it's really the shape of a square or a rectangle, however big or small, like a tic-tac-toe board in the middle, and it stresses to fill up whatever space it's being placed in. What I see happening over and over for these nursing homes or even hospices, are that the shapes they're designing create missing pieces in various life aspiration areas of the bagua that are very important for healing and rest and continuing life in a supportive way. They may make a building in the shape of a cross to maximize the light coming into the space, but when you're looking at it from a feng shui perspective, this cross shape actually creates the emotion of not knowing what direction you're going in life. It also creates missing areas in wealth, partnership, and health and knowledge, and the people end up suffering from that."
"If architects would start to learn or understand the basic concepts of feng shui, maybe if it was even taught in architectural schools, they would understand that the house is the mirror of the self. I would suggest that architects start to bring in feng shui consultants on their projects. It would allow them to understand with each of their projects what they can do to combine their knowledge with the feng shui aspects of creating a space that's going to support the people they're building for. Just because a particular building is award winning or green, does not mean that it has good Feng Shui. Feng Shui is the missing link for good healthy building"
|Helpful Links for Architects
AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community
The AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community provides leadership and expertise to practitioners of interior architecture and design, working cooperatively with its members and other interiors organizations to address relevant, timely practice issues, markets, and trends, such as licensing, liability, environmental, and technological considerations. Through the Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, important links are maintained with allied professionals, service providers, and manufacturers. If you wish to become a member of the AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, call AIA Member Services at 800-242-3837, or visit: http://www.aia.org/practicing/groups/kc/AIAS076039
Architect Online's Continuing Education Center
Architect Online's Online Continuing Education Center gives professionals a convenient way to earn necessary continuing education credits without having to set foot in a classroom. The courses listed, sponsored by the companies noted, are accessible from anywhere you can establish an online connection. Just register, read the required material, and then take the test, either through a downloadable mail-in form, or free via a secure online connection, depending on the course. You'll be able to maintain your professional credentials, at your pace, and at a location that works for you. Visit: http://www.architectmagazine.com/industry-news-section.asp?sectionID=1018
Architectural Record Continuing Education Center
Architectural Record magazine has a free Continuing Education Center where architects can earn AIA Continuing Education Credits online. Visit: http://continuingeducation.construction.com
Architectural Record Discussion Forums
The McGraw Hill Construction Community, publisher of Architectural Record, has provided architects with a forum to express ideas, opinions, suggestions, and gripes. The discussion forums are open to all, and include topics such as Green Building Projects, Virtual Design, Practice Matters and a forum for younger architects. Visit: http://construction.com/community/forums.aspx
The Green Meeting Industry Council
The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) is a non profit
501(c)(6) membership-based organization. Their goal is to encourage
collaboration within the meetings industry toward the development of
green standards that will improve the environmental performance of
meetings and events on a global basis. The GMIC is the only
professional green meetings organization that is a member of the
Convention Industry Council. For more information visit: http://www.greenmeetings.info
We hope you enjoyed our informative monthly e-newsletter. For
questions, comments or more information, please e-mail or call us
Liz Benton, Editor
Glacier Blue® Architectural Topics & NewsDevonian Stone of New York, Inc.
|Copyright Devonian Stone of New York, Inc. 2008. All Rights Reserved. Content may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the written consent of Devonian Stone of New York, Inc.|