Exploring Feng Shui Elements in Domestic House

Wen, Haiyang
Yap, Leong
Patel, Rafik
Item type
Research Project
Degree name
Master of Design
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

This study is a practice-based research project that analyses and interprets Feng Shui theory and practice, not only for its information per se, but rather for its historical, cultural and emotional attributes to inform the design and development of a domestic house located at 3 North Piha Road, Piha, Auckland. The design presents a new way to understand and apply Feng Shui theory to modern architecture and to offer positive energy to dwellers to harmonise their living.

The main challenges I have experienced in this project were not related to understanding Feng Shui philosophy and values, but in developing a design process that allows an insightful interpretation and translation of Feng Shui - from its literary theory and oral culture into architectural language that is actionable and designable to shape the physical meaning of a domestic dwelling in New Zealand. Efforts to harmonise an Eastern philosophy into a Western context presented unique challenges and opportunities for the research study.

Feng Shui is a traditional Chinese worldview regarding the art of spatial alignment and orientation, and the relationship between humans and their environment. It is both a theory and a practice. It is, however, often difficult to interpret into other societies because of different cultural backgrounds, living habits, and beliefs. This research introduces fundamental Feng Shui theory that focuses on harmonious living. Much distinctive architectural design works can be found in China and other parts of Asia. These designs provide good examples of Feng Shui application that this research project draws insights from. The Hakka Tulou and the Beijing Siheyuan are two key case studies that inspire my design exploration. They provided me with an understanding of the Chinese culture of siting harmonious living spaces, and how they manage their living environment between architecture and nature.

While the core principle of Feng Shui is still a very important factor in this design project, it has deliberately departed from this simplistic tradition to transform the intangible elements of Feng Shui elements into a domestic dwelling that expresses meaning, form, and function. Feng (Wind), Shui (Water), Yin (Darkness) Yang (Brightness), Chi (Energy), and the Five Elements (Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire & Water) were some of the key elements that I transformed into architectural vocabulary, in similes, metaphors, and meanings for shaping the forms and spaces of the dwelling.

Feng Shui theory and Chinese living culture are discussed in detail here to position the principles as the central frame of reference. A user-centred design approach is used to design and develop the domestic dwelling in Piha. User-centred design, not Feng Shui-centred design, ensures that the theory and principles of Feng Shui are materialised to shape the architectural form, space, and the environment, that is meaningful, experiential and auspicious to the occupants. A series of 2D, 3D and computer modelling were explored to study and search for optimum shapes, forms and layouts that elicited feeling, emotion and function of the dwelling.

Besides the Feng Shui theory, this study also reviewed the practice of Feng Shui historically and in a relationship with elements of Chi (氣), Yin and Yang (隂陽), and the Five Essential Elements (五行). I also looked at the Chinese living tradition and customs to understand and illuminate how and why those elements were celebrated in traditional China and many parts of Asia. However, this research is for a modern house, for a modern society that is not located in China. This has provided the opportunity for me to identify and discuss how those Feng Shui theories and elements need to be understood, interpreted and transformed into 3-dimensional spaces for a dwelling that is to be built and sited in New Zealand. Therefore, the research question asks: What is Feng Shui and how can the feelings and emotions of this oriental principle be interpreted, shaped and applied to the design and development of a domestic dwelling in a Western context?
This 90-point Design Project is a partial fulfilment of the 180-point Master of Design Degree.

Feng Shui , Living , Harmony , Interpretation
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