Fengshui refers to the Chinese traditional practice that believes that an individual’s well-being can be improved by manipulating energy forces (Known as “Qi” or “Chi”) and connecting them to their environment. In architecture, Fengshui is usually adapted to make spaces achieve optimum functionality, harmony, and Qi flow. For a place to have good Fengshui, the infrastructure has to undergo careful considerations with regards to the condition of the site during the designing process. The overall factors to form a space with good Fengshui takes into account the building orientation, the house form, and the placement of furniture and motifs. These factors can easily be determined by using various Fengshui principles, symbols, and teachings.
Many Asian Countries use Fengshui Ideologies when creating new buildings to allow them to achieve prosperity as a whole nation. In Hongkong, there are many prime examples of skyscrapers that considered Fengshui Ideologies during the design and construction process. International Starchitects also approached the famous Fengshui Masters for their opinion on how their infrastructure can improve its Qi flow for the inhabitants. In this article, it will cover five buildings in Hongkong that have included Fengshui philosophies into their design.
1. Bank of China Tower
The Bank of China Tower completed its construction in 1990 in Central, Hongkong. This 72-floor skyscraper was designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei and Partners. Being the fourth tallest building in Hongkong, the Bank of China Tower is also the most recognizable landmark due to its unique geometrical form. Its outstanding design is achieved by the vast use of glass curtain walls with its triangular structural frameworks. The Bank of China Tower has faced various controversies concerning its Fengshui in the past. It was the only huge skyscraper that forgoes the traditional procedure of consulting Fengshui practitioners in its design process. Therefore, many Fengshui Masters criticized the Tower’s original proposed building designs. They pointed out that sharp edges that look like sharp knives aiming its neighboring buildings and the vast use of inauspicious Chinese motifs such as the “X” shapes on its facade symbolize death. I.M Pei took in the feedback and modified the final building before construction started. The architects changed the crosses on the façade to be less noticeable but stood firm with their design on creating the sharp corners. After construction, the Bank of China Tower earned the nickname as “One- knife” (In Cantonese Terms: “Yaat Baa Dou” / In Chinese Terms: “一把刀”) due to some angles of the tower profile being similar to the shape of a meat cleaver or a “Vertical Knife”.
Local superstitions regarding the tower’s negative Qi include a few unlucky events that occurred during its construction such as the financial collapse of neighboring Lippo Centre and the passing of the Governor of Hongkong in the nearby Governor’s house.
2. HSBC Building
The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) built its headquarters in 1985 in Downtown Hongkong. The Architects in charge of the building design are Norman Foster and Partners. Many buildings in Hongkong were built based on various Fengshui Philosophies. Therefore, Norman Foster and Partners consulted Fengshui Masters in their building design. The HSBC Building is said to have excellent Fengshui. The building is orientated to face Victoria Harbour as water resembles wealth and prosperity in the Chinese culture. The Open Atrium on the ground floor helps to allow good wind circulation and positive Qi movement throughout the building. The HSBC Building placed the escalators at an angle as they took careful consideration of the local superstitions. This is because the locals believe that evil spirits can only travel in a straight line. After the construction of the Bank of China Tower in 1990, the tower had one of its sharp edges pointed towards the HSBC Building. Therefore, the HSBC Building added two construction cranes on its roof. The shape of the cranes looks like cannons and they are installed directly facing the Tower. This is to counter the negative Fengshui formed by the sharp ends of the Bank of China Tower. After the addition of the cranes, the HSBC building resolved the bad Fengshui issues and experienced “no harmful results after that” according to Fengshui Practitioners.
3. Cheung Kong Centre
The Cheung Kong Centre was built by Argentine Architect Cesar Pelli in 1999. The 68-story high skyscraper is located between the Bank of China Tower and the HSBC Building. Therefore, the Cheung Kong Centre is caught between a crossfire between the sharp edges of the Bank of China Tower and the cannon-like crane structures on the HSBC Building. The architect had to be very careful in the design of the center and consulted a Fengshui master to find ways to mitigate the negative Qi energy at the site. The final building form is a square shape that is placed at an angle that allows the Qi energy to circulate the center. The reflective glass façade also helps to offset the negative energy and to protect the center from bad Qi. The Cheung Kong Building also restricts its height by drawing an imaginary line between the highest point of the two famous infrastructures. The maximum height of the center is determined to be shorter than the Bank of China Tower so that the modest center can harmonize the environment rather than to compete with its neighboring skyscrapers.
4. Hopewell Centre
Before the Bank of China Tower was completed, the Hopewell Centre was the tallest building with 64 levels in Hongkong from 1980 to 1989. The most distinctive feature is its circular floor plans which results in the infrastructure’s slim and cylindrical form. However, the shape of the building is too similar to a candle or a lighted cigarette. In Chinese culture, candles have a deep and negative association with fire and death, generating negative Qi forces. Therefore, a circular swimming pool was built on the top level of the building to improve the overall Fengshui dynamics. The private pool is said to extinguish the flames of negative Qi energy from the candle.
5. The Repulse Bay
The Repulse Bay is a 37-storey mixed-use residential building that is located at the former Repulse Bay Hotel site. The complex is known for its “hole” found in between the towers for Fengshui purposes. Hongkong is known for its good Fengshui environment due to its unique landscape consisting of both mountains and water. Therefore, the local superstitions believe that the auspicious dragons are present in the environment and they can generate positive Qi energy by moving between its dwelling in the mountains and to the sea for water to drink. The people believed that the wind traveling from the land to the harbor are movements from the dragons’ journey. In Chinese culture, Dragons are good luck symbols that bring prosperity, strength, and nobility to people. To prevent blocking the dragon’s path and incurring bad Qi energy, tall skyscrapers usually contain punctures known as the “Dragon Gate” to allow the mythical being to pass through it smoothly. Therefore, the architect’s implementation of the iconic square hole in The Repulse Bay is not only for an aesthetical purpose but most importantly for better Fengshui energy for its residents.
These are the five iconic buildings in Hongkong that use Fengshui ideologies in their design. There is also a wide range of architecture around the world that adopts the Fengshui teachings in their design, creating outstanding and creative skyscrapers. In conclusion, the ultimate goal of Fengshui is to make spaces feel comfortable for the visitors to experience, work, and live in.