Casa Domintila

October 31, 2016

Kolping Hotel Casa Domintila has interesting feng shui, looking at it from the front it is like a person with two arms stretched out (Christ on the Cross?) and because of the land restriction, one of the arm has to fold in on an angle. The centrepiece has a Metal phase, supported by Earth of the brickworks above and to either side, plus a little bit of horizontal Wood to give it some interest.

Unusual for a hotel, the reception is located below ground level with a restaurant above and a chapel sitting on top. The architectural composition reflected the character of housing pilgrims on their journey well, at the end of the day, the pilgrims need food for their stomach and worshipping their Lord, more than feeling welcome.

I only wish the architect could have done a sunken courtyard in front of the reception area so there is an inner Mingtang on the lower level to collect the Qi of warmth and affection as the visitors sign into the hotel.

On the whole I much prefer this kind of hotel with meanings to some of the soulless modern varieties that we see in so-called the international hotels, which look at same all over the place, whether we are in Beijing, New York or Rome.

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aptera-spitiThis Byzantine Monastery of St. John the Divine is located next to the huge Roman Cisterns at the ancient city of Aptera. It is believe to have been built in the 7th. Century AD and remain in use until 1964 when it is abandoned permanently.

The layout is very similar to a traditional Chinese courtyard house and if we take the North as the sitting direction, where the chapel is located, then according to the Bazhai School of Feng Shui, it is a Kan House with the Door at Xun, where the auspicious Sheng Qi Wandering Star is located (see Bazhai map below). I know it is not how the original builder would have envisaged, but I find it interesting to see it from a Feng Shui perspective.

The irregular shape of the courtyard gave a distorted perspective and made the courtyard seem larger than what it is as one enters from the main door. In Feng Shui it is called a “money bag” shape.

It is quite a pleasant surprise when we walked into the courtyard from a harsh landscape, it is cool, calm and welcoming, like entering an Oasis from a desert.

In contrast to other monasteries of later periods in Crete, the chapel is not located in the centre along the East-West axis, but it is located to one side and is quite moderate in size. This made me think may be the idea of a Community of God has given away to a Worship of God over time.

I could not get my camera to work on the day, the last photo is taken from a Crete tourist site.

The Korean architect Hyunjoon You in the conclusion of his book Modernism: A History of Eastern and Western Architecture argued that modern architecture is the result of combining eastern and western culture; he then asked, “ What then, will be the next step in the architectural revolution?”

Earlier in the book he quoted the claims of the biologists that the reasons why there are two sexes in nature is to hand down superior genes to the next generation, by combining different genes from the opposite sex after growing up in different environments, the two sexes met and are combined to produce a better off-spring.

Now I can relate to this since my two children are “mixed-blood”, their mother has German and English blood and myself a Cantonese/Chinese lived most of my life in Australia, so what happens next for my children biologically will be similar architecturally, they will reproduce according to the partners that they will meet, that is according to their circumstance. So here, by analogy, we can see the answer to the next step in the architectural revolution.

The next step in the architectural revolution will be architecture of circumstance. A new generation of architects will not produce their work under a particular label, but will create according to the circumstance that they find themselves in space-time; that is the coming together of the different Yin and Yang forces associated with the circumstance.

They will learn to let it be (wu-wei), let the context of the site and the human needs produce the physical form, they will not interfere artificially with some new “ism”, they will let the circumstance produce the architecture and not their ego, transcending the need for control and to be different.

It will be an architecture that is multivalent and heterogeneous, but it has one thing in common: it is what it is meant to be; it is architecture of being itself in its circumstance.

Below are some pictures of our Farmhouse in Herzfelde Ukermark taken a few years ago: When it is renewing an old house it is just that: renewing an old house, because that is the circumstance, both with the outside and the inside – the idea is to respect what were there and let the original “perfume” come through. It is architecture without a capital “A”.

Herzfelde Exterior

Herzfelde Bed

Herzfelde Lounge

Happy New Year! This is the first blog post of the year. I have been helping a university student doing her final year thesis assignement on feng shui and design, here are three interesting questions that she asked me with my reply. Please feel free to make your comments, since your input will help her broaden our understanding of feng shui and design as well.

1) What has influenced you to apply Feng Shui into your design?

HC: Three things have influenced me to apply feng shui into my design:

i) A traditional built form in China, whether it was a house, a village or an old town, has always been done in an harmonious way with its environment, this is somehow due to the influence of feng shui, so I would like to use the principles underlying feng shui to do the same with my design. I think the more complex our society becomes and faster it is moving, modern architecture needs to be more simple and slow down to compensate for the inbalance and feng shui can help us to achiecve this.

ii) In the Daoist Five Arts 五術 Feng shui belongs to Xiang Shu 相術 or the Art of Observation and Gestalt psychology maintains that “the human eye sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts, suggesting the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Further, the whole is anticipated when the parts are not integrated or complete. Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws of our ability to acquire and maintain stable percepts in a noisy world. Gestalt psychologists stipulate that perception is the product of complex interactions among various stimuli. Contrary to the behaviorist approach to understanding the elements of cognitive processes, gestalt psychologists sought to understand their organization” (Carlson and Heth, 2010), so I feel the way that we learn to see from a feng shui perspective would help me come to a design that is more holistic and comprehensive, able to satisfy the physical, the emotional and the spiritual at the same time.

iii) The San Cai principle in feng shui can help us to achieve this effectively, because we not only learn to observe what is above (heaven Qi) and what is below (Earth Qi), but also what is in us (Human Qi – both the architect and the clients) as well. This holistic approach may not produce a feng shui style but it has a feng shui depth to it and it is basic to all good design.

2) How would you determine whether Feng Shui really works or it is just superstition?

HC: Feng shui works when it is practically efficient and ritually correct at the same time. By being practically efficient I means the result is simple and straightforward, cost effective without any unnecessary and superficial “decorations” that works in a “wuwei” 無為 way in harmony with its environment. By being ritually correct I mean the result is in keeping with the context of the site, it looks and feels “ziran” 自然 (being self-thus) and it satisfies the social, philosophical and personal needs of the occupants. This is the criterion that we use to judge the result of our feng shui architecture and built-forms, including interior and graphic designs. Feng shui becomes superstitious when the practitioner fails to understand the basic principles involved and how these principles are applied in technical applications. For example, the principle of Yin and Yang is not fixed; their technical application depends on the context of the situation and the reference point used. A mountain can be considered yin or yang compared to water, it depends on whether we are looking at it from a height point of view or from an activity point of view and so forth.

3) How has Feng Shui affected modern designers? (or it hasn’t made an impact to modern designer?)

HC: From what I can see in the west Feng shui has not made much of impact on modern designers because most of them don’t want to bother, thinking that feng shui is just an old Chinese superstition or a “New Age” fade. But I hope in the near future, when a new generation of Chinese designers learns to appreciate their own culture and they will look to feng shui for a unique source of inspiration, things will change. If the Japanese can come up with a modern “Japanese” architectural style that is universally acceptable, I am sure the Chinese can do the same one day and most likely it will be influenced by feng shui principles, even though they might not use the term feng shui because it is politically incorrect. In a few of the modern designs that we can see coming out from China, like the works by Atelier Feichang Jianzhu Beijing and Amateur Architecture Studio Hongzhou, I think the days are not far off. What they have produced is not just a superficial “Chinese” style, but what we called in feng shui a “Xing Shi” (Form and Configuration) 形勢 way of locating a built form in the existing environment, so it is in keeping with the “Ben Xing” (essential characters) 本性 of a given site, both in the man-made form and the use of color and material.

Atelier FCJZ: King's Joy Restaurant, Beijing. (Photo from Designboom)

Atelier FCJZ: King’s Joy Restaurant, Beijing. (Photo from Designboom)

Amateur Architecture Studio: China Art Academy, new campus of Xiangshan at Hangzhou, 2004. (Photo by Lu Wenyu)

Amateur Architecture Studio: China Art Academy, new campus of Xiangshan at Hangzhou, 2004. (Photo by Lu Wenyu)

Suggestiveness is a desirable quality to have in feng shui, because it can engage us and connect us to the built-form (having Ganying or mutual resonance).

But suggestiveness should not be too to the point and kill our imagination; instead it should have some “vagueness” that we can fill in with our own thoughts when we look at an object.

This remains me of the famous calligraphy done by the Qing scholar Zheng Banqiao 鄭板僑 (1693–1765),when he wrote the four characters “Nan De Hu Tu” 難得糊塗 or “It is noteasy to be “vague””, I would like to think the last two characters “hu tu” as having the connotation that is not too clear in such a way that we can make it complete with our own imagination rather than just the thoughts of the creator of the object.

The difference between the Delhi Lotus Temple and the Sydney Opera House showed below the four characters is the former only suggest one thing – a lotus flower, whereas the latter has many possibilities that we can connect to with our own imagination and it makes our senses come alive just looking at it. One architect is a craftsman and the other is an artist and we can observe from the feng shui of their creation.

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Feng Shui students often have trouble working out the sitting and facing (or the orientation) of a complex housing developments like The Interlace in Singapore (showed in the first photo below) because they are not aware of the Feng Shui principle “Yiwu yi Taiji” 一物一太極 (“One Item one Taiji”) and how the Form School of feng shui is written in Chinese.

Form School in Chinese is called “Xing-Shi Pai” 形勢派, literally means the Form and Configuration School, which implied that when we look at the feng shui of an environment, we are looking at the form of the individual components and how they would configured together as a whole.

From the outset the Interlace looks like the architect has been playing with his Jenga blocks to come up with his design; with each individual item being one Jenga block and he configured them together so when stacked up they would look like a 888 figure made of Trigrams when viewed from the air (showed in the second photo below).

So from the whole development point of view, the individual item is the singular Jenga block and we can look at its orientations separately, based on one Jenga block being one item with its own form and its own Taiji, along the saying, “Yiwu yi Taiji”.

However, within each individual block there are many units (showed in third photo below), and each unit houses one family or one group of occupants, so from each unit point of view it is one “item” within a block, so we can also work out the orientation of each residential unit being one item under consideration within the configuration of one block within the development.

The orientation of each individual unit is easy to work out because the architect has grouped the yang areas (the living room, kitchen and dinning) at the facing and the yin areas (bedrooms and utilities) at the sitting. However, for each “Jenga” block as an item, the orientation is ambiguous, it can be either of the longer sides because the architect has designed units of similar size and layouts on both sides.

For the whole development as one item, then the orientation is even more difficult to ascertain, because the layout is very erratic because it is based on a pre-conceived “look” from the air, and there is no Yin Yang clarity from a ground level to speak of. The facing could be anywhere along the 360 degrees.

What this means is the quality of the environmental qi pattern is clear for the occupants of each individual units, but it is not so for each block and even less for the whole complex. This could lead to the correlative thinking that the communal spirit for each family is good, for each block it is not strong and for the whole complex it could be erratic. Alternatively, it could be a place where the units are mostly rented out and there are very few owner-occupants.

But we have to bear in mind, correlation is not causation, and this is only a correlative metaphor used to express a certain uneasy feelings when observing the form and configuration of the project from the outside looking in, the residents living inside might have different experience to contradict what we can observe. The correlation we used here is based on the assumption that an ambiguous environment (or qi pattern) will often lead to ambiguous behaviors, consequently the residents living there will find it hard to come together.

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I was asked this question question by Fiona in Feng Shui 2012 chartroom:

Dear Master Choy.
Can you do a Feng Shui audit on The Spire in Dublin. Its in the middle of the O’ Connell St Dublin. I think its Sha Chi for the surrounding buildings. What do you think?

Hi Fiona, Seeing you address this question directly to me, I will try to answer you with some broader appeal so we can use it to make a visual feng shui assessment of other structures.

“Officially called “The Monument of Light” universally referred to as “The Spire” and unofficially called “The Nail in the Pale”, “The Rod to God” and “The Poker near Croker” amongst other more “colorful” names. Like any other member of the family, once Dubliners realized the tallest sculpture in Europe would provide plenty of opportunity for creating cheeky nicknames they finally acknowledged it as their own.” – From the webpage of the Dublin Council.

Every city wants an outstanding urban marker of their own, to give the city an identity, to attract tourist, to use as a reference point for the residents to find their way and so forth, eventually they become the land-mark of a city and the talking point.

The criteria used in feng shui to look at a structure like this is to ask sample questions based on Yin Yang considerations of what is above, what is below and what is in us, with a reference point. To his end I made up these three questions (and there can be more):

1) Is the built object out of Yin Yang balance between its surrounding environments? If it is then we say it has Sha Qi, if it is harmonious and constructive, then we say it has Sheng Qi. (Earth Qi consideration)
2) Is it an appropriate thing to do in terms of the size of the city and her aspiration? (Heaven Qi consideration)
3) Do the majority of the people like it? (Human Qi consideration)

My answer to these three questions:

1) It is a little too high and in your-face, but given its function, to be little bit out of balance and controversial is fine, besides it is very simple and direct.
2) It does give Dublin an identity and a landmark so in terms of the council representing the people it is an appropriate thing to do.
3) Given the nicknames, it is endearing to the residents. There will always be someone who likes it and some who don’t, but the majority of the people seem to accept it as their own and many tourist flocks there.

In assessing an object in the environment like this, a feng shui consultant should try not to be too subjective but to balance his or her personal likes and dislikes with some objective criteria based on feng shui preference, like being harmonious, appropriate and holistic (i.e. taken all 3 San Cai qi into consideration).

You know we get to be asked all the time, “What do you think of the feng shui of this and that?” so a systematic and a structured approach is required in order that our answers are always consistent and view from a feng shui point of view and not just a personal remark. Knowing how to do this means we can adjust the feng shui accordingly, if given a chance.

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