How Architects Use Feng Shui To Design Famous Buildings


1990. The famous Bank of China building became the newest addition
to the Hong Kong skyline with its sharp, pointed edges. Soon after the building was opened, the bank next door reported huge losses and two other businesses
filed for bankruptcy. Those businesses
specifically blame the design of the Bank of China building
for causing this catastrophe. Why? Because with those sharp edges, that building shirks the
principles of feng shui, supposedly cutting through
the skyline’s good fortune. It may seem like superstition, but architects from around the world have made major design
decisions based on feng shui, decisions that we can see and that may even affect our lives. So, what is feng shui? It’s all about creating
harmony by finding ways to connect manmade things with nature through design using the
five natural elements: metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. The best way to understand
it is to start small, with a living room. And each one promotes something different. Water can represent living flexibly, and you can include it in your
home using the color black or by introducing a wavy pattern. Metal is represented by
objects made of, well, metal, as well as the color white. You’d add fire elements if
you want to ignite passion. Triangular shapes and the color red help to bring in a little heat. The wood element can
encourage personal growth, and you can incorporate that
with the color green in plants. Finally, earth elements provide stability, and you can incorporate
it by adding heavy objects or something like a square rug. It’s solid but can be refined. Good for creating stronger focus and disrupting unharmonious forces. It may seem unlikely that these practices can bring about such major life results, but there’s a reason some of
the world’s most successful and impressive architects
integrate them into their designs. Put simply, they share the same purpose: to figure out the needs of a person and find ways to make
the space functional. This can be done by using
colors, shapes, textures, and even through the arrangement
of things like furniture. To see how architects use feng shui, let’s start in New York City at the famous Columbus Circle, one of the first major locations to use feng shui in the United States. It’s right next to Central Park, and the central feature
is this roundabout. Roundabouts represent a
huge problem in feng shui. They represent the water element, but in a more volatile way: whirlpools. There’s an endless rotation
of people, vehicles, and energy constantly flowing
through the traffic circle. Like water, without something
to interrupt the flow, a whirlpool begins to form. Feng shui experts say this
can cause catastrophe, as wealth could potentially get
sucked into the hectic flow. One of those businesses
concerned about this is the Trump International Hotel. Enter feng shui master and
Trump consultant in the ’90s Pun-Yin and her father, Tin-Sun. She suggested adding the now
famous Columbus Circle globe, which literally disrupts
the flow of energy as people stop and gather around. Its purpose is to stop the roundabout from sucking in all the potential
wealth and opportunities. For example, people who may have otherwise just kept walking are
stopped in their tracks, potentially bringing in more business and, therefore, more wealth. The globe was installed
in 1996 by Donald Trump at the suggestion of the
two feng shui masters. The move signaled to the
architecture community that there was a new
market emerging in the US for feng shui in architectural design. After this, the number
of feng shui businesses in New York state shot up from two to 65. Feng shui is used by
architects in different places around the world for different reasons. But whether the architect
has a casual interest in it, is culturally connected to it, or simply knows it helps sell
newly developed buildings, it’s being used everywhere. Next, let’s take a trip
to Sydney, Australia, home to the Sydney Opera House, a feng shui triumph by
combining two elements that seem at opposition
but actually work together: fire and water. It was designed by architect Jørn Utzon, who wanted to create a
space that uplifts the arts. According to Steven Post, a feng shui practitioner and teacher, the sail-like curves of the structure, which is literally built on water, represent that element and combine with the triangular shapes, which represent fire in feng shui, that prop up those curves. This combination can create
a productive balance, using the passion of the arts to foster flexibility in its audiences and the largest city. That makes sense because
the Sydney Opera House is all about promoting
the performing arts. Hopping over to Europe, let’s look to the romance
capitol of the world, Paris, which is home to the most
famous collection of art in the Western world, the Louvre. It was designed by I. M.
Pei, the same architect who designed the “disastrous”
Bank of China building in Hong Kong, but this
one is a feng shui marvel. The Louvre includes classic
European architecture coupled with more modern
glass pyramids in the center. Pyramidal structures are regarded as a classic fire structure in feng shui, and its base is flat and square, representing the element of earth. The combination of these two elements encourages passion through
the element of fire to fuel the need for art
to continuously evolve, while the earth element
helps ground the place and teaches us to respect
the invaluable treasures of classical art that are
already in the museum. But not all buildings can be so lucky. The Bank of China building had one of its sharp edges pointed directly at the HSBC building, the neighboring bank that reported losses as a result of this. So HSBC responded with feng
shui adjustments of their own by installing canon-like structures on the top of their building, a feng shui tradition that
deflects negative energy. But experts say there are
a few relatively easy fixes that could put the
building back in harmony. Steven Post says changing the crisscrossing metal
components from white to green would promote wood energy and making the antenna at the top red would promote fire energy. Making these changes would
shift the sharp nature of the building into a
naturally harmonious one, where wood is fueling the
fire, leading to success. As architects and interior
designers continue to include the practice of
feng shui into their work, you can expect to see more
buildings and landmarks with the aim of creating a
healthy, harmonious city life. Maybe one day, they’ll be able to even remedy the growing
feeling of fleeing big cities for wide-open spaces. So, the next time you’re out and about in your own neighborhoods,
take a look around. There could be feng shui elements at work and you didn’t even know it.

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