|Feng Shui for Architects|
Professional Practice Writer and Editor
Feng Shui, which literally means wind and water, is the art and science of living in harmony with nature's forces. This practice encourages the proper flow of energy and life forces for more humane and livable environments.
Feng Shui is no longer just an ancient Chinese secret. While slow to take root in the United States, it is now global and transcends culture and politics. So say Barbara Dellinger and Bobbie Galate, interior designers who explained Feng Shui to an audience of architects at a seminar in early December hosted by the architect firm of Davis, Carter, Scott in their Washington, D.C., offices.
"This is not a fad," Dellinger said, citing the Trump Towers, MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Sydney Harbor Casino in Australia, and several Bank of America centers as representative of projects whose clients have employed Feng Shui during their design. Countries is the Pacific Rim, Australia, Finland, and the United Kingdom have embraced Feng Shui principles at varying levels, and many architecture firms abroad include Feng Shui consultants on their design teams. Anecdotal reports from the field now say U.S. corporations, health-care providers, services organizations, and residential clients are asking their architects about it. "We need to be smarter than our clients, who read about Feng Shui in the [Washington] Post," said one health-care facilities architect.
Private residences, public buildings, towns, and the Forbidden City itself all were planned according to Feng Shui principles. Design elements were used not just for aesthetic reasons, but for more practical concerns such as controlling interior temperatures, air flow, and light, and protecting occupants and dwellings from flooding. Today, Feng Shui has evolved into different philosophical schools. For instance, the Compass System is the traditional feng shui, based on aligning the elements and the cardinal points to parts of a room, building, or town. The Black Hat system is a more recent development that uses a grid system and intent to achieve balance and harmony.
Feng Shui first became popular in the U.S. among homeowners, but has made its way into large commercial projects, including hospitals and other health-care facilities. Dellinger, who works for the District of Columbia's Washington Hospital Center, said that in her experience, many Western health practitioners are getting into Feng Shui because they understand the environment—including the flow of energy and buildings themselves—affect people's health. These practitioners sometimes find that traditional Western medicine is often not enough to help patients or their families.
Intention is one of the guiding principles of Feng Shui, Dellinger explains. By thinking it and designing it, we are creating part of the energy that makes things happen. Other design principles addressed through Feng Shui include balance (the most important element); symmetry; ceiling heights; views; angles; shapes; and circulation patterns, for which meandering paths and curves are preferred over direct routes and sharp angles. In essence, Feng Shui is all about what nurtures a building's occupants and makes them feel comfortable in a space. "As architects and designers, we instinctively do a lot of these things. Feng Shui provides the framework and the philosophy to support our instincts," Galate said.
Copyright 2001 The American Institute of Architects. All rights reserved.