Feng shui can be literally translated as wind water. Whether or not your space has “good” or “bad” feng shui depends on how chi (energy) is allowed to move through the building. It is also dependent on how much your dwelling reflects the balance achieved in nature. For architecture, this has bearing on site selection, design, construction and interior design/arrangement.
One thing to consider in a home is whether or not symmetry successfully translates into balance or harmony. It’s common for doors and windows to be placed opposite one another, but that’s not good feng shui. The chi is allowed to move too quickly through the space. Something else that lets the chi exit a space too quickly is if there is a view from the entrance of a home straight out a window or door to the back. The incoming energy leaves directly which can be distracting or unsettling.
High ceilings are another feature to reconsider – at least for some rooms. Their dramatic, enlarging effect can result in trouble concentrating or sleeping. Odd angles or wall shapes are also said to lead to a lack of focus or irritability, since the chi bounces around the room. Spiral staircases can be positive additions to your home, if placed in an area with positive feng shui as they will engage all the surrounding energy and amplify it.
The REN People’s Building in Shanghai, China embodies principles of feng shui (in fact, all capital cities of China are designed based on this architectural spirituality). One section of the building emerges from the water and is dedicated to activities of the body; it houses a water culture center. The other emerges from land and is dedicated to the spirit and enlightenment; it has the building’s conference and meeting centers. The two sections meet to form the Chinese character for “people” and all five elements of feng shui (earth, water, fire, wood and metal) are embedded in the architecture.
Other uses of feng shui in China include deciding how to orient your home. The ideal orientation is facing to a southerly lake or river with a hill behind the building to the north. (In Eastern cultures, South – not North – is considered the “front.”) This has a practical application since harsh winds in China often come from the North, while most sun and warm winds come from the South.
I know that feng shui can seem a little wishy-washy or too left-field for some, but many of its principles actually make sense. For instance, I feel more comfortable in spaces that are suited for the scope of work that I’ll be doing in them – and while I may love tall ceilings in a concert hall, I’m equally grateful for the coziness of my small living room. Whether or not it’s because of my traveling chi is hard to say, but as long as it suits my needs, I can leave the details for later!