There is an indefinable balance that we can all conceive; when something just feels ‘right’ but in a way that cannot be expressed in words. The Chinese might call it ‘qi’ (not so much a word as an idea); an invisible force that binds us together.
Feng Shui is an Eastern philosophy of order that is built on this sense of balance and spiritual calm. With health and wellbeing at its centre, it informs how we might structure our physical environment in support of much loftier concerns: our dreams, aspirations and ambitions. It sets forth a strategy whereby we might remove the clutter of our everyday lives, allowing us to see clearly and questioning the objects to which we attach value and significance, thereby elevating ornament to icon. The underlying suggestion is that without meaning there is no substance.
At increasing scales, from desk to room, from room to building, to street, to city and beyond, it suggests a universal ideal that is tied to nature and earth. Without searching too deeply we can find parallels in the lessons we learn as students of architecture. The approach, in many ways, is innate; a building that feels good and lingers in the memory will often conform to the principles defined in Feng Shui. Post rationalising, perhaps, but there is a universal relevance to this approach that transcends its mystical origins.
Firmly rooted in its site, our Centre for the Scottish War Blinded, in Linburn, was inspired by a Chinese celestial dragon – the embodiment of ‘qi’ – with an elemental flow that is felt before it is perceived. Our intervention at Kelvinhall, too, is primarily about the movement of people, from the generous reception area and cafe to the Scottish Screen Archive at its public terminus. Light, space and intrigue are all present and correct, balancing the energy of the architecture.
Stripped of its metaphysical reasoning, the fundamental qualities of Feng Shui come to the fore, not as an eastern geomancy but as a clear and rational strategy to calm the chaos of modern life. It would likely do us all some good to reflect on our tactile world and ask how it fits into a bigger picture.