Once the preserve of the ruling Chinese dynasties, Feng Shui is now a global phenomenon impacting interior designers in the Middle East. By Adam Dawson
There are different theories to exactly how old Feng Shui is, but what we do know is that it developed thousands of years ago in little villages in the Far East. The inhabitants used the science to choose the best location for settlements - ones that would provide a bountiful harvest and a healthy livestock. Today most people have heard something about Feng Shui, and it is no longer restricted to just Asia, it can be found the world over, attracting the attention of such unlikely fans as Prince Charles and Donald Trump.
It's an ancient Chinese science of design and placement," explains Feng Shui consultant Samita Khanna. "Literally translated it means wind and water. It's a metaphysical science that deals with the earth's energies (Chi) that are flowing all around and it teaches how to harness these energies to bring you prosperity." According to Khanna it is a practice that is becoming so widespread throughout the region that even real estate giants Emaar and Nakheel are employing the technique in some of their developments, as are government offices such as the Dubai Economic Department.
Creating the proper balance of what are known as Yin (dark) and Yang (light) energies and having the right interaction between the five elements of water, wood, fire, earth and metal is the essential basis for a good Feng Shui compatible design. A consultant considers several elements including location, materials, history of the land or building, surrounding environment, placement of furniture, the layout of rooms and building orientation.
"Location is very important," says architect and Feng Shui consultant Proshat Sarablou. "You need to be aware of the surroundings and the energy that they give off. A business wouldn't want to be near a hospital as that gives off too much negative energy and a home wouldn't want to be close to a school as that gives off too much energy."
Employed correctly, Feng Shui can bring a host of benefits ranging from increased prosperity and financial success to better health. This is the reason why corporations are increasingly using Feng Shui consultants when redesigning their offices. The most common forms to be used in this instance are Eight Mansions or the Flying Stars forms of Feng Shui.
Khanna explains: "Eight Mansions is your individual Feng Shui based on when you were born and deals with your own personal direction you should be facing while at work.
Flying Stars is more the spatial Feng Shui that deals with a particular space and every space in the world has its own Feng Shui." She adds:When you do a large property you deal with universal wellbeing and spatial Feng Shui as it isn't possible to deal with personal elements. If I'm doing a home, I try to do the personal Feng Shui but if I'm doing a corporation then I'll do the personal Feng Shui of the top management and the rest would be according to spatial Feng Shui of the place."
It is important to place the different departments of a company in the correct areas according to the Flying Stars Feng Shui. The accounts should be located in the financial prosperity area of the office, while the marketing department should be placed in the networking part of the building. "In an ideal situation you'd employ both techniques and have people in the right location according to Flying Stars and facing the right direction according to Eight Mansions but obviously this is difficult when you have a large corporation," explains Khanna.
Needless to say it is a complex art form. "Vastu is a science which tells you about the stuff you are made of and how you and architecture go into resonance, thereby benefitting you or harming you,explains Vastu practitioner and architect Andrea ter Mors. "It's an ancient Indian science based on the laws of nature and mathematics and is mirrored in the sciences of traditional Indian dance; music; poetry; sculpture and architecture. If you look at the creation of crystals they also fall under the same laws of nature.
According to Vastu, if a property is built according to the five elements:Earth, water, fire, air and space, the internal energy currents in the bodies of those living there will be in tune with the universal energy, resulting in good health, wealth and happiness for those residents. Just like Feng Shui, the underlying principle of Vastu is to live in harmony with the environment so the energy surrounding us works for us rather than against us. The main difference is that Vastu tends to be implemented during the architectural design of a building and relies less on energising areas through placement of objects and more on the actual structure of the building.
After seeing Feng Shui applied to its clients' buildings, interior design consultants Bluehaus decided to employ the skills of a Feng Shui consultant to arrange its offices. "The CAD department are based in the area where there should be least movement as they are office based, while the general manager and finance department are based in the area driven by finance and sales," explains Ben Corrigan, senior design manager and partner, Bluehaus.
The team must also enter and leave the office through the library and leave the same way. Although this isn't the most obvious route this is where the money is and the team are expected to bring wealth into the office when entering." And what has the effect been on the company as a whole? "We take very seriously the directives given to us by our Feng Shui consultants and so far we are very happy with the direction the company is taking. There is more interaction between team members and we believe Feng Shui has played its role."
In a region that boasts a booming hotel industry, Feng Shui can be used to provide a welcoming and positive experience for those staying in them. "Hotels have a large volume of traffic every day therefore the entrance needs to have a very positive energy," explains Feng Shui consultant Vicky Moane. "A large open entrance is best. The overall environment of the reception is usually very Yang whereas the bedrooms can be very Yin. A balance has to be achieved."
Colours also play a significant role in enhancing the energies within a building and placing the correct colour to correspond with the right element is important. But getting the colour right is essential. For example, painting a northwest wall brilliant red will burn the energy of the head of your organisation. Numbers have their role too; if north east is represented by the number eight and it is recommended to put crystals in that direction it would further energise that area if eight crystals were placed there instead of just one.
Water is an important feature. Incorrectly positioned, however, it can negate anything positive that you are trying to achieve. Water represents wealth as rivers traditionally used to bring riches to ancient towns and cities. Water features should be balanced with the size of your space and should flow into your property and not away from it.
Ideally a building should be correctly positioned next to a river, however in the modern world this is no longer possible. "We can't always build offices near rivers anymore, so you substitute the river for a road and the traffic acts as the water, bringing prosperity to or away from your business, depending on the direction," says Sarablou. "You see many examples of shops offering the same level of service on opposite sides of the road but one is more successful than the other for this reason.
And what about the Feng Shui knickknacks that litter new age shops all over the world? "The premise of Feng Shui is to get rid of clutter so you don't want to clutter your environment with items you've bought from a shop in the name of Feng Shui, as that would defeat the object," says Khanna. "For energising a space, natural items such as rocks, crystals or stones, or even a piece of furniture with a certain colour are best.
So what advice does Khanna give to designers implementing Feng Shui into their commercial interior design? "You should research your consultant well. This is a science and you have to be responsible. You can't go plonking random things in random places. This can cause as much harm as good," she concludes.
In Feng Shui, good career luck means power and influence. It also means holding a high office and job satisfaction. A small aquarium with two goldfish and one black fish is a good energiser. North is represented by the number one and the colours, black and blue.
Reputation and Fame Luck: South
This refers to the luck that comes with having a good and honourable name. Those in professions requiring mass appeal and popularity will benefit from this sector. A tall uplighter or a bright light in this corner will do wonders. This direction is represented by the number nine and colours red, green and purple.
Health Luck and Longevity Luck: East
Living a healthy life to a ripe old age is considered one of the more important manifestations of good fortunes. Number three represents east, as do the colours green and blue.
Education and Knowledge Luck: North East
This aspiration is energised to benefit those who are involved in research and education. North east represents the Feng Shui luck of personal development. A crystal globe placed in the northeast corner of your desk is an excellent Feng Shui enhancer. The number eight and the colours beige, tan and other earthy tones represent this direction.
Wealth Luck: South East
To activate the wealth luck of any room, activate the south east corner of that location. This direction is represented by the number four and by the colours red, green and blue. A small water fountain with four coins placed in this direction is a great energiser.