Feng Shui is a topic that rarely enters contemporary architectural discourse although many Architects have Clients who consider the principles of Feng Shui as important to their project in one way or another, and with the recent Chinese New Year celebrations having just passed, what better time to discuss the role of Feng Shui in architecture and the home? Both Feng Shui and Acupuncture are natural sciences derived from ‘The Book of Changes’ which was believed to have originated from the legendary Emperor Fu Xi in the year 3322 B.C. The book represents symbolically, the organised, rhythmic and purposeful universe, allowing the reader to infer relationships between himself and the Cosmos beyond normal perceptual levels. Architects may argue they are Feng Shui specialists of sorts on this basis.
To put it very simply, Feng Shui aims to align earth and life with the cosmos in order to receive positive energy. Whilst this may sound a little L. Ron Hubbard it’s by no means a stretch to consider the core principles and outcomes of great architecture on the same basis. The Feng Shui method of organisation covers all aspects of living and working spaces, from interiors, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, to gardens and outdoor living spaces. The fundamental aspects of Feng Shui are simple and rational, and can be applied very easily to planning a home or workspace. In the most part they are common sense principles most Architects would adhere to in a general sense, particularly the principles relating to cross ventilation, light and generosity of space.
We have had a steady increase in enquiries about Feng Shui over the past few years and had even specified some of these principles in the Project Brief sections of recent Fee Agreements with our Clients. I have outlined a handful of these principles below and have suggested how they can be applied to design.
Feng Shui Principles
The basic principles of Feng Shui are to design spaces which permit the clear, unobstructed flow of warm and harmonious energy. High ceilings and generous spaces that are well-lit with good air flow and lighting are great foundations for a Feng Shui home.
Entrance to the Home
The main pedestrian entrance into a home should be easily accessible from the road and be the most prominent entrance to the home in order to welcome the most positive energy.
This is particularly relevant in the context of garages which can dominate the street elevation if care is not taken in their design. By the same token, overcompensating the pedestrian entrance with columns that look like they belong in a Roman piazza is not really an intelligent alternative either. A sensitive design approach to entry paths, gates, intercoms, property numbers, letterboxes, planting and lighting can provide a sense of priority over the vehicular entry to the site. Many architecturally designed projects can be spotted on the basis of the attention to detail of these elements. These elements are mostly neglected in the average home where an Architect is not involved and as much as I don’t mind the odd wander through big chain hardware stores I hardly think a Brunswick Green colonial letterbox creates much positive energy for the contemporary Australians who reside there.
The kitchen is central to nourishment and sustenance. It is important not to have the kitchen too close to the entrance or the back door as it allows energy to easily escape. Position water elements (sinks, dishwashers) separate to fire elements (stove/oven). Happy chefs in turn create nourishing meals for a happy family.
In addition to these principles the Kitchen should be the command centre of the social spaces of the home (Living, Dining, and Outdoor Living) allowing families to interact during meal preparation time. All of our projects which have included a swimming pool in the design ensure the Kitchen planning allows for full supervision of children when they are using the pool.
Getting good quality sleep is crucial to your wellbeing. The principles of Feng Shui suggest good access to natural light and cross ventilation as well as a solid timber bed as opposed to a metal bed are important. Avoid televisions, visible exercise equipment and loud colours in the bedroom to ensure that sleeping spaces are harmonious and relaxing
Brightly painted walls in children’s bedrooms are quite patronising. Most kids these days have more toys than they can poke a paint stirring stick at so turning their room into another large toy is completely unnecessary. Letting children explore their senses and experience sunlight, breezes, shrubs and trees, bugs and birds outside their bedroom windows without the distraction of bright patterns and wall colours allows your child to experience the world more deeply when they are in that calm (yet very short) moment when they wake, fall asleep or daydream during playtime in these spaces.
The living room should be a sanctuary that retains the most energy, and thus is best located centrally to the home. Feng Shui principles suggest orientation of lounge suites and furniture in south and west corners, and avoidance of furniture at the north and east sectors.
Obviously these principles are a little rigid but they do make sense in terms of having furniture face the direction of the sun. Most Living spaces will connect with outdoor gardens, lawns and courtyards to ensure this most utilised space of the home enjoys great sunlight all year round so it makes sense that furniture also connects with these indoor outdoor spaces by facing the direction of the sun.
The bathroom should be located away from central areas like the kitchen and living areas, as the energies of these spaces are incompatible. Employ organisational strategies such as neat, accessible cabinets that will keep this area clean and clutter free.
I have built a handful of projects for other Architects, one of which had a bathroom door opening directly onto the Dining space. I raised this is a serious concern with the Architect and, as often occurs in these instances, I was reminded that I was just there to detail and build the project. I am conveniently seen as ‘just a Builder’ by some peers when my opinion doesn’t suit them but that’s a story for another blog post. Whilst the finishes and detailing of the project were exceptional the direct connection between the Bathroom and Dining room was, well, quite ridiculous. It’s tough to enjoy a meal when you catch a glimpse of the Bathroom toilet between entrée and main course.
Feng Shui specialists claim that following these basic principles can have a significant impact on your everyday life. Principles such as avoiding cramped rooms with little light, awkward unused spaces and lengthy corridors (which rush energy through your home according to Feng Shui) are common sense to most good Architects. What these principles are really based on is not so different to the thought process a good Architect has in terms of seeking positive outcomes for their Client when a project is on their drawing board – listening to your instincts, connecting both material and space with the landscape and nature, designing spaces that will make your Clients feel the most comfortable…these are perhaps the most universal principles of good architecture.
Of all the projects I have been involved as both the Architect and the Builder only three have been put on the market. One of those Clients engaged CplusC for a second project and another was purchased by a potential Client that loved our work but didn’t want to wait! Perhaps it is the principles of Feng Shui in CplusC projects that explain why our Clients never want to leave?
The best definition I could find is by author John Mitchell who said that Feng Shui is “the art of perceiving the subtle energies that animate nature and the landscape, and the science of reconciling the best interests of the living earth and those of all its inhabitants”