Often, we sense soulfulness in traditional buildings - in reed covered farmhouses, rickety court yards, pagodas or simple dwellings of mud and stone. They seem to embody an ease and timelessness that make us feel connected and at home.
It is rare to find this soulfulness in modern buildings. Despite their comforts and efforts to impress, life in them is often hectic and lacks the deep connection we yearn for. Singer Emma Donavan touches on this difference in a pertinent song line, “we confuse living culture with lifestyle choices”.
There are two levels to bringing soul back into our buildings. One is the human dimension, the other the Feng Shui dimension. Let’s have a look.
The Human Dimension - Purpose & Integrity
Everything created, including a building, begins with a purpose, an original idea. This purpose permeates it and gives it its flavour and soul. In traditional societies, the process of making a home was based on simple purposes, straightforward and practical.
Today, the purpose of building a home is complex with all sorts of considerations entering into it. We may be under stress ‘to get into the market’, want to ensure it’s going to be ‘good for resale’, there may be ’fears of missing out’. Then there is lots of red tape and advice from builders, agents and designers, causing us to loose the direct connection with its creation. The process has become much more removed from us.
As a result, our buildings tend to embody a mash of cross-purposes. They may be stylish and fashionable, but we often feel restless and disconnected in them and not as much at ease as we would like to be.
A soulful building has integrity. Integrity means that it does what it’s meant to be doing, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is much more than keeping us dry, having a bed to sleep in, a functional kitchen or looking good.
Doing what it’s meant to be doing includes the soul level. It resonates with our being, with our deeper yearning for being at home, while naturally supporting our activities like a fitting third skin. Designing such building emerges from within us. It is not something that can be imposed.
To enter into the process of creating a building with integrity, we need to slow down and allow space and time. Time to sense what really matters to us, to feel, for example, what the space where we would sit and read would be like, how open it should be to the rest of the house, etc.
There is a way that things are right and that feels settled for us. Just as with slow food, it takes time to connect and feel, to let emerge how it could be the way we like it in the greater scheme of the building. It is a process worthwhile entering into. I’d love to hear from you about this and am happy to assist.
The Earth - Feng Shui Dimension
The other factor responsible for the integrity of a building is the degree of harmony with its environment, its Feng Shui.
Environmental influences include the landscape, the surroundings, the micro-climate, magnetic field effects, the design and the intangible Feng Shui energies that give a place its feel. Our buildings turn out much better if we harmonise them with these existent factors rather than insisting on headstrong independence against them.
There are two main Feng Shui influences in a building:
One is Qi flow and the degree that positive environmental energy can be collected by a building or site. This is determined by the landscape as well as by building design elements. It is the hills, other buildings, trees, roads, rivers, doors, walls and furniture that influence Qi flow.
We can go wrong with Qi flow if not enough healthy energy can enter, or if a building cannot hold and contain this energy. There may also be issues of stagnation when the flow of Qi is blocked.
The other level of Feng Shui influences is energetic. It is the quality, the ’feel' of each room as determined by intangible Feng Shui energies. This felt dimension arises from a complex interaction of magnetic influences with the features and design of a site.
Advanced Feng Shui tools can help us harmonise each area - through right design, placement and colours - with these energies, rather than trying to insist on features that go against these natural influences. Harmonising with nature is part of creating a place that does what it’s meant to be doing.
Energetic influences can go wrong if we inadvertently activate inappropriate energies - if we try to work where it is difficult to concentrate or where we feel sleepy. Or if we try to sleep where there is too much active energy or a potential for sickness. Or if we try to be creative where the dominant potential of intellectual discernment thwarts the free flow of our creative impulses.
Feng Shui knowledge can help us ‘read’ the environment on the physical and spirit levels. It can give us a head start in identifying:
- the best location and orientation for a building on a block - based on microclimate, water flows and existent energies.
- design features, doorways and pathways, that allow us to collect and use healthy environmental Qi and life force.
- how to create healthy support for each person in their bedroom and sitting areas, so that they can really relax and recharge.
In the end, to create a soulful building we need to include both, the human dimension with clear purposes and intentions, and a building harmonised with environmental influences. Both are important in creating a Soul-Spaces, or as the Chinese put it, places between Heaven and Earth.