Planning for Feng Shui

By Vincent Pham


The Bank of China, designed by architect I.M Pei, had its façade modified multiple times during its construction after a Feng Shui expert noticed that building design featured primarily of crosses, which would bring bad luck to the bank owners and its customers. Consequentially, the façade was modified and retrofitted to become a pattern of “diamonds,” where previously crosses.
Melbourne’s urban growth has ignited many discussions on all aspects of the city from the macro to the micro. Large scale projects - such as the new Melbourne Metro Rail line, for example - create a conversation around how their locational and physical attributes “value capture” the benefits of the project. Location and placement are key aspects of successful city planning and - regardless of whether the issue is large in scale or small - carefully considered design is a central and functional component of planning. Feng Shui is inherently concerned with location and placement and with the upcoming 2017 Lunar New Year approaching, the concepts of city planning within Melbourne could also be viewed through an alternative light: the practice of Feng Shui.

Feng Shui is a philosophical system of channelling positive and negative energies within the environment. It is concerned with placement of certain objects or structures within certain locations to influence health, well-being and luck for inhabitants and has been around in the orient for many millennia. Although, Feng Shui is normally practiced domestically within Asian households, it has permeated building design and city planning within oriental cities such as Hong Kong and Shanghai. 

It can essentially be broken up into 15 core principles, as briefly described by Howard Choy:

  • An integrated and Holistic System: our environment is considered to be an integral system as a whole…each individual system does not stand-alone; they are mutually connected.
  •  Being suitable and appropriate to the restriction of limitation of the site: every site has its limitation and advantages….there is a need a determine what site is best suitable for…and not forced out of balance with its neighbour.
  •  Bound by Mountains and Near Water: culturally, the Chinese prefer a landscape strategy that is hidden nature and is part of it rather than being exposed and set oneself above nature.
  •  Carry the Yin and Embrace the Yang: A Feng Shui house should be protected from the cold wind and facing the warm sun …if no protection nearby, then the wind will penetrate the bones, and bring the owners increasing defeat.
  •  Observe the Form and Examine the Configuration: …so observation and investigation of the land to locate the correct form…is one of the core principles of Feng Shui … this allows the designer to have a comprehensive appreciation of what he or she is dealing with.
  • Examine the Geology of the land: place where tin is produced is not suitable for agriculture, there the inhabitants are usually poor and has to emigrate to survive.
  •  Analyze the Quality of Water: the quality of water (especially drinking water) often determines the quality of ife because plants need to be watered and humans need to drink constantly.
  • Determine the Amount and the Standard: “Feng Shui has an affinity with sustainable development; a guideline we can adhere to so the resource can keep up with the population growth … we should not waste the land or the resource, nor should we allow an insufficient land size to create unnecessary pressure.
  • Take Advantage of the Sheng Qi: Sheng Qi is the life force makes things grows…Sheng Qi can be cultivated by adjusting the Yin and Yang balance of a situation so they are in harmony and mutually supports each other.
  • Suitability Located in the Middle and Residing in the Middle: the reason why historical capitals in China were never located in the coastal cities like Guangzhou or Shanghai because a capital needs to be centrally located… urban business centre is always located in the middle of a modern city.
  •  Aesthetic Appreciation: with our five senses and our mind, an aesthetic appreciation of a built form in its environment become important part of Feng Shui.
  • Greening the Environment: the amount of trees and wood can give an indication of the quality of the Feng Shui of a site.
  • Feng Shui can be Transformed and Improved: the Feng Shui of a place can be remoulded to improve its quality…in the process of enhancement, the natural environment should be respected at all times.
  • Yin Yang Dialectics to Achieve Harmony; in practice, when we observe and analyse a situation, we can contrast and find the extremes…we can find an appropriate solution lying somewhere within the bound of the two poles.
  • Being Timely and Affectionate; …Feng Shui, in essence, examines and contemplates this intimate relationship between humans and nature.

These core principles are still relevant to planning urban settlements today and continue to align with the objectives of 21st century planning, despite having been around for long times in oriental culture. The core principles are explored greater by Howard Choy at this website.   

Indeed, not all principles can be immediately applied in the blink of an eye, but whatever time, place or culture, we continue to work towards one goal – to create safe, vibrant and happy urban environments for all. So, as even more discussions within the industry continue emerge, is there possibility for such ideas to influence the future of the Melbourne?

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