The Turin FS Congress, September 2008, a press release by Richard Ashworth
October 6, 2008
First International Congress on Scientific Feng Shui and the Built Environment, Politecnico di Torino.
“The big picture is without form.” Lao Tze.
Flying into Turin over the Alps must be one of the most breathtaking aerial approaches on earth: comparable to Hong Kong or Nice. As my plane descended, the undercarriage felt as if it might scrape the roof of the Superga, the magnificent Savoy palace that stands like a sentinel above the city which is itself divided by the winding River Po. This is real feng shui: real mountains, real wind and real water. Turin is a location that has commanded the Italian peninsula since at least the 1st millennium BCE.
Sarawaggi is what keynote speaker Derek Walters called it: the mysterious quality that brings pilgrims to a location – Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, standing stones lost in the wilds of Armenia – for no quantifiable reason.
I had a little trouble with the Turin Airport security X-rays which found my clear quartz wand, along with my trusty moldavite fragment in my jacket pocket.
“You write with this?” the baffled security officer asked, brandishing it like a stylus.
“No I point it,” I replied and he shrugged and waved me on as only an Italian can.
Whatever it is, sarawaggi enticed several hundred to Turin the weekend of the 18th September including some of the most fascinating, creative and authoritative thinkers on feng shui. These included designers, practitioners, writers, healer, enthusiasts and above all architects, all there to see how their various disciplines might marry to design a sustainable world for the future.
Principal among these was feng shui architect Howard Choy who may lead the world in linking these two spheres. Howard opened proceedings with a deft introduction that placed feng shui and architecture right away into their appropriate relationship with the tao (or way) This was typically both definitive and clear. The Chinese character for “think,” he informed us, differs from that for “observe” by the addition of the ideogram for “heart.” So to think is to observe with heart.
“We don’t say,” he said, inviting us to both think deeply and observe “That feng shui is a science but that we can study it scientifically.”
Attilio Andreini followed with a discussion of the traditional tale of Zhuang Tze and the jumping fish which led to a lively end-of-session panel discussion. How did Zhuang Tze know how the fish felt? You had to be there.
Welsh-born Jill Lander who practices feng shui on the Chinese mainland, graciously tolerated an introduction as English and gave a masterful and visually impressive exposition of the feng shui of Hong Kong, the fragrant harbour, and the threats and opportunities that may lie in its future. Was the Lippo Centre doomed from the start? What will be the future of Lantau Island? This was among the most talked-about speeches.
As was that of Mauro Aresu and Arianna Mendo who next told of their discovery in Sardinia of stone structures holding measurable healing energies. This exercise in the marriage of architecture, archaeology and feng shui in practice, caught the imagination of the audience which again led to a series of questions in the panel discussion.
Equally ground-breaking was Anthony Ashworth’s absorbing account of his field research into the geomancy of sub-Saharan Africa and his meetings with Credo, the mutwa, or holder of ancient knowledge. Who knows where this may lead? He was followed by Manuela Gatti who had put her money where her mouth was by building business premises of sustainable materials in keeping with feng shui principles. Next Vastu Shastra Master Giulia Bellentani’s account of basic Vastu was so sensitive, thorough and expert, it was hard to believe she was both so young and born in Italy. Namaste!
As the conference drew on it became more and more clear that Turin, World Design Capital 2008 was the logical venue. Set in the Po valley among the foothills of the Alps, themselves studded with the historic palaces of the Italian Kings, the streets of Torino are laid out in a grid much like Paris or Washington DC. If you look all the way along them in any direction your eye catches distant green hills. The prescient Savoys also incidentally, knowing that being in the shadow of the Alps made for above-average rainfall, arranged for pavements throughout the city centre to be sheltered with cloisters so that (as long as you don’t cross a road) you can shop all day without getting wet.
Turin native and Co-organiser Carlo Amedeo Reyneri di Lagnasco’s beautifully illustrated presentation argued convincingly for connections between the power of the Savoy family and the Piemontese landscape.
Papers followed from authorities in disciplines as diverse as semiotics, martial arts and urban planning. Civil engineer Livio Dezzani (who brought Italian design to the Chinese eco-city of Caofeidian) and architect Claudio Greco (who gave us an overview of the evolution of the Beijing Olympic facilities) both showed how European design like feng shui, can be applied anywhere in the world.
The Hollywood-based Simona Mainini quoted Frank Lloyd Wright: “Form follows function,” she told us and added that “Function follows the energy.” Simona, a long-time student of Feng Shui Master Larry Sang, served her architectural apprenticeship with Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of Frank, whose holistic vision of course predated this Congress by more than half a century. Simona went on to show how good drafting and strict adherence to the traditional meanings of flying star patterns could lead to almost supernatural results.
Joseph Yu alumnus Silvia Sacchi did something similar a little later with the addition of her own distinctive spiritual insight. Bernardino Chiaia showed how nature’s mastery of the right design for the right function was a perfect model for the architect and Ermanno Bellucci made silicon sound sexy.
All the way from British Columbia, Teresa Min Yee Hwang by showing how a professional feng shui consultant does her job, inspired many who aspire to her skills.
Among other outstanding presentations were Roberto Marrocchesi (described by the absent Jon Sandifer as a true gent, a very special soul) and his moving account of the use of feng shui in rebuilding a family’s life after the death of a child brought tears to the eyes of many. Francesco Rossena took events to new heights by having the audience physically practice tai chi with him and the sheer energy of Madhu Patel brought a standing ovation.
Other highlights were the irrepressible Priscilla Braccesi who spoke with enormous enthusiasm and authority, without notes about the feng shui of Milan, past, present and future. The youthful Master Jin Peh explained the differences between the various types of luo pan with such clarity that when Derek Waltersshowed one on a slide the next day, whispers could be heard saying “Sam He…no. Zong He”.
Master Derek, sometimes called the Godfather of Feng Shui because of his seminal books on the subject, gave two talks linked by the title Mirrors of the Heavens and showed why many continue to consider him the leading edge in the understanding of the 28 Lunar Mansions and indeed Chinese Astrology.
With great clarity, Gyda Anders posed important questions about the role of traditional feng shui in modern architecture as did Munich-based Michael Rappwho explained movingly how feng shui had put him back in touch with why he had become an architect and demonstrated how a small number of subtle changes could transform workmanlike architecture into homes that put human wellbeing first.
Again and again this theme of mutual learning arose and it was in the examination of it that this gathering truly caught fire as healers, earth acupuncturists and interior designers found common ground. If this world threatened by over-consumption, inequitable distribution of wealth, global warming and a plethora of philosophical conflicts is to emerge into the 1st century let alone flourish, it may be that the connections made here in Turin over this weekend will prove to be key to it.
This point was emphasised by Richard Creightmore, perhaps the world’s leading authority on geopathic stress, who dazzled not so much with his knowledge of the problem as with his concentration on doing whatever it took to heal the stricken planet.
Co-organiser Richard Ashworth took his reputation in both hands by making predictions for 2009 based on Four Pillars theory, evincing an appropriate combination of respect and bafflement. Then on the Sunday, as planned, Jon Sandifer failed to turn up, appearing on a big screen explaining the principles of Nine Star Ki so as to show why he as a 2 Earth, could not safely have made a flight to Turin at this time.
Giulio Mondini from the Faculty of Architecture wound the Congress up with encouraging words about the lessons learned and possible future gatherings.
Congratulations are due to Richard Ashworth and Carlo Reyneri for putting this together as well as thanks to Silvia Sacchi for her supportive role and Laura di Stefano and her OSC team for the flawless administration. Also to be mentioned in despatches are Carlo’s tireless partner Marietta whose multiple contributions included recruiting and coordinating with OSC.
Thanks are also due to Barefoot Flooring magnate Dawn Gibbins and to Lillian Too for their invisible but indispensable support. Last but not least, we would also like to thank: Dianella Mancin, who is the fund raiser who obtained the important patronage of Citta di Torino, Provincial di Torino e Regione Piemonte.