Answers to a Student’s Questions on Feng Shui and Architecture

November 20, 2012

I often get to be asked questions by students of architecture when they have an assignment to do, this student from England is a Malaysian Chinese and she has to do a 5,000 words essay on Feng Shui and architecture, I thought since I have written the answers to her questions, we might as well share them on my blog post:

1. What do you think motivates your students’ interests in Fengshui?
Motivation for my students vary: a) I am mainly a teacher’s teacher, many of my students are already teaching or practising Feng Shui for a living and they come to me to improve their skills. b) Career change, looking to retrain as a Feng Shui consultant. c) Wants to use Feng Shui to support their chosen career path, from professions like real estate agents, environmental designers (architecture and interior design), facilities managers and personal trainers, etc. d) Interested in Chinese culture, comes from other disciplines like TCM, Taijiquan and Qigong. e) Wants to use Feng Shui to handle their personal problems – learn to change their “luck”. f) Doing it for a hobby or looking for a new spirituality through learning Feng Shui. The last group is quite small because my tuition fee is not cheap and I don’t teach Feng Shui as a religion.

2. Do you have many architects coming to you for lectures and classes? What do you think motivates their interests?
About 10- 15% of my students are architects and interior designers; they are motivated to study Feng Shui to improve their skill as an environmental designer. Some are frustrated with their work and look to Feng Shui for a creative outlet.

3. What do you think is the main reason behind the increase in Westerners’ application if Fengshui in their everyday lives?
The main reason behind the increase in Westerners’ application of Feng Shui is because they feel modern architecture has failed them. They feel their quality of life is decreasing because the modern built environment don’t support them. They want Feng Shui to empower them and to make their home and office a special place just for them.

4. In your case, you came to learn and practice Fengshui because you had to redesign your proposal for a project in Hong Kong. Why do you think Western architects came to practice Fengshui? Personally, do you think its more of a self interest in the subject and the environment or perhaps due to demand?
Some architects come to learn Feng Shui because they have clients interested in using Feng Shui or they are doing projects in China. Some come because they have a personal interest. So it is both due to demand and due to personal interest.

5.One of the reasons Fengshui is popular in countries like the states and Australia is due to business immigration. Could you perhaps provide any other factors that may have influenced Fengshui’s rising popularity among Western countries?
Feng Shui went through a popular fad phase in the early 80s and 90s, this popularity lead to many books being written on the subject and a lot of people still find these books interesting and want to learn more. Many who discovered Feng Shui during this period got deeper into the subject and they continue to study and promote Feng Shui. So the rising popularity is also due to the momentum of this new age fad not completely die away. Another factor for the continual rising interest in Feng Shui, though in a slower pace, is put forward by Ole Bruun, who thinks Feng Shui became popular because it can make a home sacred for the occupants, may be he is onto something there.

6. It can be said that Fengshui is more noticeably popular in the States and Australia. However while Fengshui is practiced and applied by many in Europe, the subject doesn’t seem to be as obviously popular as compared in those two countries. Why do you think that is?
Feng Shui is not as popular in Europe, compared to Australia, Canada and the US, is because there are a lot less Asian migrants in Europe and most Europeans are not familiar with Asian cultures. I know at least one or two Germen who don’t want to know about Feng Shui, because they think their European culture is more superior.

7. Would you say Fengshui now has a significant presence among Western architecture? If so, Fengshui seems to have a ‘silent’ presence in the field, why do you think that is?
I think Feng Shui has become better known but not necessarily has a significant presence amongst Western architecture. It is true that it has a more “silent” rather than “audible” or acceptable presence. A few years ago we want to write some articles for the German architectural magazines, but they turned us down because they think it will lower their professional standing. They have a view that Feng Shui is only a Chinese superstition.

8. Fengshui consultations have always existed since long before. But among the Western societies, Fengshui has not always been well received. Would you say that there’s been a signification attitude change in their attitude towards Fengshui? Would you say its being more sought after in recent years? Do you think it may have any connection to the consumer culture that characterizes the society today where just about anything is commoditized into a ‘product’ and where nearly everyone seeks to be or possess something unique? Or perhaps its just that in the 21st century in which everything seems possible, people are getting more accepting and open to just about anything?
Feng Shui has not been well received by the Western public because there is a lot of false information written in the books and in the popular press. Two of the “pioneers” who promoted Feng Shui in the early days, did it to promote either their religion or their business interest, thus give an impression that Feng Shui is a superstitious rip-off from the Chinese culture. I would not say it has been more sought after in recent years, but the more serious side of Feng Shui is emerging after the new age fad die away. Part of its popularity is due to the consumer culture like you said, promoted by people who want to sell their Feng Shui products. It is not good for Feng Shui but it will persist because that is a part of our social make-up.
9. Would you say the rise in Fengshui popularity may have connections to marketing gimmicks or related schemes in which Fengshui has become a sort of ‘trend’, perhaps a ‘fashionable product’ to be sought after?
Yes, the rise in popularity of Feng Shui could have connection to marketing gimmicks by people like Lillian Too with her chain of “The World of Feng Shui (WOFS)” shops. Unsavoury characters like Donald Trump also uses Feng Shui to do their business, even though they have no idea what Feng Shui is all about. In the hay days of Feng Shui Craze, hairdresser even used Feng Shui to sell their haircuts! They left a horrible legacy to Feng Shui and we can still feel the bad after effects years later. Of course there are also many charlatans in Feng Shui and that doesn’t help the situation either.

10. Looking up articles related to Fengshui, I have come across several that tells of residential projects in which they have incorporated the application of Fengshui in the design/ development. Would you say this is more of a marketing gimmick mainly aimed at the fast expanding Asian community in Western countries, or out of interest in being harmonious with the environment and ecology?
Yes, most of them used Feng Shui as a marketing gimmick, rather than as a tool to improve the environment. However there are people beginning to use Feng Shui to promote ecology and environmental sustainability, but they are quite small in number by comparison.

11. Have you had any problems with applying Fengshui to architecture? If so what sorts of problems have you had?
Personally I don’t have any problem with applying Feng Shui to architecture, to me good architecture is good Feng Shui and vice versa. Nowadays we use Feng Shui in all our works even when it is not asked for. We find it to be a very useful tool if applied appropriately. Over the years we have developed a design methodology using Feng Shui principles, it is called “The San Cai Methodology for Feng Shui Analysis and Design”.

12. Many cities are imposing urban renewal/ regeneration schemes. What do you think of Fengshui’s potential in these schemes?
In our experience, Feng Shui is vey effective in environmental preservation and urban renewal projects because Feng Shui is about space, time and human action, so time (cycles of time, being timely and using historical time as a design tool, etc.) plays an important role and we can take advantage of Feng Shui effectively in this area.

Below are a couple of photos of our office and Feng Shui school in Berlin under construction, we are converting an old building not very far from the center of Berlin to house our new ar-qi-tektur office and ECOFS (European College of Feng Shui). It is done with Feng Shui principles and we picked the site after doing a thorough Feng Shui survey of Berlin to identify this “hot-spots” for redevelopment.


2 Responses to “Answers to a Student’s Questions on Feng Shui and Architecture”

  1. Evening Howard!
    I am a landscape architecture by profession in the states (Tennessee) and was introduced to Feng Shui through a project in the mid-1990s. I found it very intriguing though didn’t have any basis for understanding it back then. Since then, I had begun studies in martial arts and recently medical qigong. The experience through medical qigong laid the groundwork for better understanding Feng Shui.

    Life took me away from work 2 years ago and when things settled, I found an opening to go back to pursue my Masters. I have a love for sustainability, the land, and Asian mysticism. I knew that I wanted to focus my thesis work on those elements and I turned to Feng Shui. In the course of my research, I came across your paper on the 15 core principles. Your work has become foundation for my thesis research and resulting design guidelines that could be used to guide the inventory and analysis work as well as a sustainable design process.

    I have been debating on reaching out to you now that I am near the end of the process to share with you the insights that I have had over the course of the last several months. In fact, I was thinking about that today and came home to your post pertaining to your conversation with a fellow student. I guess the universe heard me and brought me your email and I see it as a sign to reach out to you. :-)

    If you would be interested, I would be happy to share my work with you. Please email me and I will email you back.

    Many thanks and be well!

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