Feng shui, once the preserve of ancient China, is becoming an increasingly common consideration in architectural projects worldwide
The practice of feng shui – which translates as wind, water – has been employed for centuries in China as a way of creating auspicious spaces to live and work in. In recent years, with principles adapted to modern times, it has gained respect globally and is being applied across design disciplines to open the door to what some believe is a positive energy force.
The tenets of feng shui concern the energies found within the natural world, and the positioning of objects to boost the natural yin-yang balance in a given space. This philosophical system – which includes such considerations as the colours of an interior, the position of a door or the number of lights in a room – aims to boost the prosperity, health and harmony of those using the space.
The five feng shui elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – are carefully employed to allow for the free flow of positive energy (qi) around a space.
Something as simple as changing the orientation of a desk or the colour of a sofa can help achieve the all-important positive energy that feng shui aims to deliver. Branding agency RO New York is located in the Flat Iron district, overlooking the Empire State Building. Its offices have recently been renovated according to feng shui principles.
"I believe that inspiration and design influences begin from within, helping you optimise your senses and performance overall," says founder Rony Zeidan. "I am now fundamentally aware of the elements and flow when I walk in a room."
Working with feng shui design consultant Judith Wendell, Zeidan set out to strengthen creative flow in his office. Changes to the office interiors included making sure key people were placed in auspicious seating positions, the addition of touches of colour such as red to represent the fire element, and making "transcendental adjustments" to dissipate negative energy flow. Wendell translates ancient principles into contemporary design while being mindful of a client's purpose, style and budget. "Traditional or cultural feng shui adjustments to energy might be made with water fountains, whereas I may use a rug with an undulating pattern, or a pendulum clock for directing qi and movement," she comments.
"Instead of hanging crystals, I use pendant lights or a hanging sculpture; instead of the 10 Dynasty coins for wealth I use a thriving plant. This way adjustments can fit more seamlessly into any decor or environment."
A building that nurtures creativity is vital to the brand values of M.int Academy, a new music school in Hong Kong, which recently opened with 17 practice rooms, an auditorium, three classrooms and a chamber music room, all designed according to feng shui principles. "From the very beginning, I envisioned a bright, welcoming open space, with a neutral warm colour tone and with accents of vibrant colour creating a positive energy flow for students to excel in," explains M.int Academy co-founder and interior designer Philippa Wong.
Working with feng shui master John Choi, incorporating the principles of the discipline became an essential part of Wong's design process. Many approaches have developed over the centuries; Choi's methods place emphasis on the way light helps energy flow and the strategic importance of a main entrance.
The application of feng shui is not without its challenges: "I believe one of the most difficult tasks a feng shui master must deal with is to incorporate feng shui into an office setting in an on-trend way," says Choi. Aside from the meticulous positioning of furniture within the rooms, interior design details at M.Int include a slightly curved floor-to-ceiling wall behind the reception that is a fraction wider than the academy's entranceway. This has been done to retain the positive energy of the space. Similarly, gold, blue and white stickers placed in a specific pattern underneath the carpets help to increase its positive energy.
This is an excerpt from "The nature of energy”, an article from the January/February issue of Perspective magazine.
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