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Uncluttered Architecture – Can House design reduce daily stress?

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Economic crises. Revolutions. Globalization. Excessive information. Cosmopolitan lifestyle. For each individual, all these crises play on our natural paranoia, and our own unique self-defenses. Entering a building we desire a clean and peaceful atmosphere. We prefer clarity and harmony. So what can we do to defend out self from these stresses?

An uncluttered architecture could make a difference…..

The Forbidden City

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the third Ming emperor YongLe created the dazzling Forbidden City. It is located in the center of China’s capital Beijing and demonstrates an extraordinarily harmonious balance between buildings and open space within a more or less symmetrical layout.

The Forbidden City at Night

The Forbidden City was constructed in accordance with ancient rules of spatial design, first used during the Han dynasty in building the city of Chang’An (modern XiAn), between 206 BC and AD 220. Among other things, these rules specified that the principal buildings should be aligned along a straight axis from south to north, flanked by a symmetrical arrangement of minor structures on parallel axes.

Feng Shui and Architecture, House Cavan

The imagined flow of chi through Studio Negri’s House in Cavan (2003)

In part, the Chinese philosophy of Taoism seeks harmony with nature. The mysterious art of Feng-Shui (literally, ‘wind-water’) was used to help harmonize buildings with natural forces. The Chinese architectural tradition for placing major buildings along an axis also allowed asymmetrical elements to be introduced, such as the natural release of trees, lakes, and canals.

Feng Shui Architecture, South Throne

The South Throne in the Forbidden City

All of the five elemental colors (as specified by Chinese philosophers) were introduced in the design of the city: white marble terraces, (almost) black paving of the courtyards, red columns, with yellow roofs, all on a sky blue background as reflected in the moat. The majesty of this purple-walled city with its golden yellow rooftops standing tall among all the uniformly grey and far smaller hutongs must have been an extraordinary sight.

The high, vermilion palace walls, by keeping the emperor hidden, enhanced his mystique and glory. Construction of the Forbidden City started in 1406, the 5th year of YongLo’s reign. The construction took 14 years – and an estimated one million workers and 100,000 artisans were involved.

The imagined flow of Chi in a House Extension in Bray

Studio Negri believes that the Feng Shui principles can at least be used as a metaphor for uncluttered architecture. We believe that that architectural designs should be creative and clean. Our principles are similar to those which guide Feng Shui:

  1. Uncluttered
  2. Honest
  3. Precise
  4. Extremely strong conceptually, with clean lines
  5. Flows gently with the natural elements – sunlight, water, and other environmental elements

The imagined flow of Chi in a Studio Negri House Extension

As with the Ying and the Yang, the architect must embrace the light and darkness, the clean entry of the sun, and provide the proper respect for shadows. Light and darkness must be befriended by the architect.

We also believe that architecture has the uplifting power to provide psychological healing, and can potentially create a placebo impact on physical illness.

Feng Shui offers architecture some guidelines that will nurture a more balanced life for the occupants. There are also famous examples of architecture considered to have good Feng Shui, even though the exact influence has been debated.

Some have argued that Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by Feng Shui. Master Xu Weili says that Wrights “genius flowed from his innate understanding of Taoist principles.” Windhorse Feng Shui Consultants say that the residents of Wright’s Fallingwater could dip their toes in the waters, or breath in the clean air of a pure Pennsylvania forest.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

The cantilevered terraces of Fallingwater recall the great homes of Egypt and Babylon, with secret waters flowing, and secret gardens flowering. But Cate Bramble argued that this was all accidental. In 1937 Wright coined architecture as “that great living creative spirit which from generation to generation, from age to age, proceeds, persists, creates, according to the nature of man, and his circumstances.” His creative genius enabled him to go way beyond the traditional in ways contrary to the ideals and principles of Feng Shui.

In so many airports of the world, baggage carousels are in gloomy, low ceilinged claustrophobic spaces in the bowels of the building. Woodhead Wilson architects who designed Singapore’s top-rated Changi Airport created a space that is well-lit, welcoming and energetically uplifting. The baggage passing by on the conveyor belt seems almost irrelevant.

Changi Airport, Singapore

It is praised by Malaysian feng shui guru Joey Yap for entry roads and fronting lawns that properly gather up pools of surrounding qi. But the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore states categorically that it “does not take feng shui into account” in airport designs.

Mary Lambert says that Feng Shui encourages us to manage the flow of chi (energy) in our homes. This energy is restricted when it encounters obstacles. It can be blocked and slowed down. If energy accumulates in one area it can choke the minds of the occupants creating procrastination and mental stagnation. A clear house promotes a clear mind.

When chi moves freely, the atmosphere is bright, charged and uplifting

Chi comes through the front door and then floats through the rooms in a spiraling movement towards the backdoors and windows. The porch and hallway are considered the mouth of the house. Lack of calm flow, where energy can easily enter, move, and escape decreases stress.

Sheila Chandra writes that the Japanese consider space as a ‘thing’ and not as a ‘lack of something’. Empty space can be a thing that you use and that enhances your life, and not a lack or a ‘negative’. Clean ordered surfaces especially natural wood flooring encourages a good flow of chi. Bedrooms, where the spirit rests, should be serene. The kitchen is seen as a nurturing place – it should be warm, cozy, airy, and inviting. The bathroom is a private retreat. Water features entice positive energy into the home. Studio Negri sees the metaphor of chi as a means of conceptualising a design that creates harmony in the minds of those who dwell within our designs.

Architecture and Boundaries between Nature and Inhabitants

Studio Negri, Bray, House Extension, The breaking down of boundaries between nature and an uncluttered architecture

Many of our projects have large windows allowing the entry of abundant sunlight. The inhabitants are surrounded by the scenery. The entire living space becomes fluid, and the inhabitants will live in the sequence of nature. This architecture absorbs the movement of the sky and the cloud, and wind. The boundaries between house and nature are less clear, in order to encourage more clarity in the minds of the inhabitants.

Barbara Ann Brennan says that this ordered design has a critical impact on our daily energy:

Order functions to hold a space for us in which we can do our life’s work. Order creates a safe space in which the creative force within us can come forth. Order is a divine principle


For more reading and references:,9171,1619108,00.html While Singapore’s top-rated Changi Airport is praised by Malaysian feng shui guru Joey Yap…… In so many airports of the world, baggage carousels are in gloomy, low ceilinged claustrophobic spaces in the bowels of the building…..
The Forbidden City is a masterpiece of a royal architecture complex guided by Chinese traditional feng shui theory. It reaches a harmonious convergence between human and nature through….. – photos from here also… At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the third Ming emperor, YongLe, created one of the most dazzling architectural masterpieces in the world… Frank Lloyd Wright & Feng Shui? Globalization. Excessive information. Cosmopolitan lifestyle…


Banish Clutter Forever – Sheila Chandra

Ultimate Guide to Clearing Your Clutter – Mary Lambert

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