The basis of element feng shui is the productive and exhaustive relationship between the five elements of fire, wood, earth, water and metal. These relationships are cyclical and depending on the nature of the relationship in any given space and at any given time, they generate positive or negative effects on the luck of living and working environments.
So the introduction of any of the five elements plays a significant role in creating serenity and imbuing surroundings with an emotional atmosphere. This is felt as the ambience of space.
Too much or too little of any element can have an adverse effect on any space and how it is perceived. So the challenge is finding the right balance in the integration of the five elements into living and working spaces, and in doing this while also maintaining its aesthetics.
The Rising Energy of Fire
Elements can be introduced through different mediums. Through colour, the five elements are represented as a band of visual markers. The colour red evokes the expression of heat and vibrancy thus the emotional response to yang energy or fire. The physical attribute of Fire is represented through lights and physical heat such as a fireplace or kitchen. As a shape, Fire takes a triangular form – this A form creates an abstract vision of a building shooting upwards towards the skies, similar to the physical form of burning Fire; the energy created moves upwards. Shown to the right is the famous fire shaped Bank of America Tower in downtown San Francisco. Its energy shoots upwards bringing fabulous yang energy to the residents within.
The Fluidity of Water
Water is always known as the element that moulds to any shape or form. An excellent example of a water building categorized according to its form is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This unique building wraps itself in a fluid motion suggesting a water-like shape. Set within a body of water, the use of the physical form of water helps further enhance the element of the building itself. By understanding how the cycle of elements work, water is produced through metal energy. As such, the exterior skin of the building, clad in metal sheeting, introduces the metallic energy needed to feed the water shape building.
The balance of yin and yang is also a term used for a balance between the active and the passive. In architectural design, it is important to always maintain a balance between active and passive spaces. This can be represented through private and public realms in space planning or through visual interpretation such as the serene body of water with the vibrant form of the Guggenheim museum below.
Integrating Two Elements Together
Metal represents an element that bends into a curvilinear shape, typically within a single direction. In its abstract form, it assumes a circular shape that creates a dynamic motion to instill the anticipation of something beyond the form. In colour, metal is categorized by a pristine white or grey colour palette. In the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the circular form highlights an architectural feature that demands your attention and evokes a mysterious entity that is almost too inviting to explore.
In the productive cycle of elements, earth becomes the source of enhancing any metallic form. Constructed in reinforced concrete, the mixture of these two elements invites the innovative use of a rigid building block to create an organic form. To further strengthen the concept of earth energy, rectilinear square accents are carefully designed to break any monotony thereby allowing the yin and yang of forms to interplay with each other.
The yin aspect is represented by the feminine circular form sitting on the square platform of the building which takes on the yang aspect. So by playing with two basic shapes - the square and circle, this architectural masterpiece demonstrates how shapes and elements work together, bringing a spectacular yet harmonious balance to the whole building.
Wood forms can be represented either as actual physical material or through its designated shape, which is rectangular. In shape, it looks tall and elongated on one side to give a sturdy physical expression. As building materials play a vital role in any construction, it is advisable to bring a balance of all five elements into any building. For skyscrapers, the structural materials are steel (metal) and concrete (earth). Exterior lighting features represent fire energy, so it is vital to introduce the 2 missing elements of wood and water into the cycle of elements.
Take the case of the UN Building in New York. Here the building sits in full view of the East River; it is able to tap the water energy that is so essential in fueling the strength of the building. The physical element of wood is then translated on the opposite site through the entry, thus allowing the building to tap the elements of nature and the surrounding landscape.
Combining Shapes into a New Form
Earth element buildings are by definition square in shape although in reality they may not always be confined to just being a square building. Like a rock or mountain, earth buildings need to be strong and steady. With a broad base and dominating features, the earth building remains rock solid and offers a visual interpretation that it is able to withstand any force.
The element to enhance an earth building is fire energy, which can either be introduced through lights or a triangular shape. By capping the building crown with a triangle, it gives a visual interpretation of a solid support base, capable of soaring upwards, reaching great heights in reputation and in fame.
It is through the harmony of the five elements that we can evoke an emotional response from the user of the space. The built environment should not be designed in a way that looking at it drains one of creative and inspirational thoughts.
Meanwhile the concept of yin and yang is also crucial to bringing balance to the built environment. This can be translated through merging nature and the man made building form by using shapes, forms and the natural landscape. Play with the attributes of every element, its colours, textures, sounds and shapes. In doing so, an aesthetic solution that invites a calm, balanced and harmonious lifestyle can be created.
The following article is taken from the "Feng Shui World (September/October 2007)". To subscribe, please click here.