How Culture Persuades Architecture: Feng Shui And Hong Kong

In the past, Chinese emperors designed cities in accordance with feng shui principles. Although cities in China are less explicit in the practice today, it still influences architectural design in places such as Hong Kong. The belief system influence ranges from the layout of an area space to specific calculations on when to install certain objects like an entrance door. Feng shui is so ingrained into Hong Kong’s architectural identity that in 2005, the Hong Kong City University became the first in the world to offer a feng shui course as part of its building and engineering master’s degree program, according to an article in The Guardian.

The basic idea of feng shui is that there is good energy floating around called qi (pronounced Chi), and if you optimize your physical environment, you can channel that good luck.

The HSBC Building, the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, is often used as an example of applying good feng shui principles. According to an interesting Vox video, the building squares off nicely with the mountains in the back and the harbor in the front allowing good qi to flow. When you enter the lobby it’s noticeably elevated with escalators set at an intentionally weird looking angle to fend off bad luck as it’s coming through a hole in the bottom of the of the building.

The Bank of China Tower, a nearby skyscraper next to the HSBC Building, is often criticized by feng shui practitioners. The developers explicitly ignored the concerns over the sharp angles of the skyscraper design, which would cut the good qi and create bad luck for all the surrounding buildings. The HSBC Bank put up maintenance cranes in the shape of cannons in response to combat the bad qi they thought was coming from the sharply angled skyscraper.

A common feature in the Hong Kong skyline are buildings with holes in the middle. Vox described the holes in the buildings as “dragon gates,” deriving from the superstitious belief of dragons. The reasoning is the dragons live up in the nearby mountains and travel down to the water. If buildings block them they send out bad luck. Vox later clarified that:

“while construction firms have specifically cited feng shui as a motive for putting holes in their buildings, the unique design also has other purposes other than superstition, including heat ventilation and city code compliance. Feng shui is not always a factor in these design decisions but we did hope to show that the belief systems have influenced architectural decisions in Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong’s architecture is a good example of expression in cultural identity. Feng shui continues to shape the urban design layout and is taken seriously among many of the city’s residents.



True North in Detroit Selected as Finalist for International Architecture Prize

True North is an experimental live/work community located in Detroit that has received notable attention. It has been selected by the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize as one of six finalists (2 of which are located in the U.S.). The prize is designated to the best-build work in the Americas from January 2016 to December 2017. The list of other finalists include:

  • Teopanzolco Culture Center in Cuernavaca, Mexico
  • Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC
  • SESC 24 de Maio in Sao Paolo, Brazil
  • Edificio E in Piura, Peru
  • IMS Paulista in Sao Paolo, Brazil

The Director of MCHAP, Dirk Denison, notes on how the finalists can create influence in both architecture and culture—“MCHAP projects push forward the development of architecture as a practice, reshaping how we see and organiz[ing] the built environment around us. They participate in the large cultural exchange that is an essential characteristic of the Americas today.”

True North was led by developer Philip Kafka and Prince Concepts and the architects Edwin Chan/EC3 has nine rental units and is designed specifically for their inhabitants who think differently with their spacious and still neighborhood. The corrugated galvanized steel structures provide affordable accommodation and offer unique external and internal spaces. Visit their website for more information and what they offer at “We provide space for self-stimulated people. Period.”



5 Interesting Architectural Firsts

Just for fun, I decided to do an internet search for architectural firsts throughout history. Listed below are the first five topics that came to mind and their results. I hope you find them as interesting as I did. 


1. Male Architect

Imhotep, Greek Imouthes, (born 27th century BCE, Memphis, Egypt), vizier, sage, architect, astrologer, and chief minister to Djoser (reigned 2630–2611 BCE), the second king of Egypt’s third dynasty, who was later worshipped as the god of medicine in Egypt and in Greece, where he was identified with the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius. He is considered to have been the architect of the step pyramid built at the necropolis of Sakkara in the city of Memphis. The oldest extant monument of hewn stone known to the world, the pyramid consists of six steps and attains a height of 200 feet (61 meters).  (

2. American Professional Female Architect:

Louise Blanchard Bethune (July 21, 1856 – December 18, 1915)[1] was the first American woman known to have worked as a professional architect. She was born in Waterloo, New York. Blanchard worked primarily in Buffalo, New York and partnered with her husband at Bethune, Bethune & Fuchs.

Her work includes the Hotel Lafayette. The Buffalo Meter Company Building was renamed Bethune Hall in her honor by the University at Buffalo.[2] This building has since been redeveloped into apartments and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, received LEED Silver certification, and received the Preservation League of NYS Excellence in Historic Preservation Award in 2014.  (Wikipedia)

3. Skyscraper:  

The world’s first skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, erected in 1884-1885. The so-called “Father of the Skyscraper” towered all of 10 stories with its peak at 138 feet, miniature by today’s standards but gargantuan at that time. The architect, Major William LeBaron Jenney, incorporated a steel frame that supported not only the walls but the great weight of the entire building. The exterior, however, was made of brick. This technique spawned a new type of construction referred to as the “Chicago Skeleton.” The landmark building did not last…it was demolished in 1931 which was ironically, the year that The Empire State Building in New York was completed.  (Guinness World Records)

4. School of Architecture:

The MIT School of Architecture and Planning is one of the five schools of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. Founded in 1865 by William Robert Ware, the School offered the first formal architectural curriculum in the United States, and the first architecture program in the world operating within the establishment of a University. The school is considered a global academic leader in the design fields. (Wikipedia)

5. First Pritzger Architecture Prize Winner:

Philip Cortelyou Johnson (July 8, 1906 – January 25, 2005) was an American architect. He is best known for his works of Modern architecture, including the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, and his works of postmodern architecture, particularly 550 Madison Avenue which was designed for AT&T, and 190 South La Salle Street in Chicago. In 1978, he was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and in 1979 the first Pritzker Architecture Prize.  (Wikipedia)


If you've ever dreamed of designing the worlds next architectural masterpiece, you're in good company. There are always new "firsts" to be achieved. But first, you would be wise to keep your license current.  Architects Training Institute is where architects can find and purchase the AIA-approved CE courses they need in order to satisfy the continuing education license renewal requirement in their state. Designed for busy professionals, our courses and packages let you get the exact architect continuing education you need and want – to go!



Development Aims to Transform Tampa Bay’s Downtown & Waterfront

Tampa has set plans aiming to transform their downtown by investing heavily into its waterfront. For a long time, Tampa has focused on building highways and other structures that cut off water from its residents. Now they plan to invest intensely into their Water Street, a $3 billion, 50-acre waterfront district that covers 16 blocks on Hillsborough Bay.

The project is being developed by Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture from Jeffrey Vinik—the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, and Cascade Investment. Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects and Reed Hilderbrand will be working on the landscape and master plan architecture.

If the plans are successful the Water Street will become the first WELL-certified community. This certification sets new design and health standards such as focusing on elements like daylight and air quality. The Architects Newspaper says it will have “A centralized district cooling facility will be built to serve all the buildings in Water Street, opening up rooftops to have more space for greenery and/or active amenity spaces.” Water Street also looks to be LEED Neighborhood Development Certified, which helps shape sustainability.

According to the New York Times, the development will consist of “17 buildings, including two new hotels and the renovation of a third, with restaurants and rooftop bars, and one million square feet of cultural and retail space, plus 3,500 residential units.” Once completed it is estimated that more than 23,000 people will live, work dine and visit Water Street. The first phase of the project is expected to be open in 2021 with an estimated completion date of 2027.



Getting the Benefits of Daylighting from Electric Lighting

Daylighting has been gaining popularity since the end of the 20th century. Research conducted in the 1980's and 1990's found that access to daylight increases employee productivity and leads to fewer sick days overall. This research helped push the surge of designs focused on bringing daylight in and reducing dependence on synthetic light sources.

In an effort to replicate the effects of daylight, designers are now able to adjust electric lights to create specific colors and lighting temperatures. These lights are able to mimic natural daylight and work with our circadian cycles, bringing many of the same benefits found with natural lighting sources.

Arup, a firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants, and technical specialists located in Boston has installed a full circadian-light system that emulates the sun's hues from dawn to dusk. The lighting follows a color temperature curve of 3000K (warm) to 5000K (cool) and back to 3000K over the span of each workday. Arup enjoys the system so much they are in the process of installing similar systems in their Chicago, San Fransisco, and Seattle offices.

Daylighting makes a huge impact on architectural design but it is still seen as a discipline outside the industry.


Balkrishna Doshi Wins Pritzker Prize

Balkrishna Doshi, considered as being an architect for the poor, became the first person from India to be awarded the Pritzker Prize on March 7 for his sustainable and low-cost style in a rapidly modernizing country. The Pritzker Prize is considered the highest award in architecture, equivalent to the Nobel Prize, and established by the Pritzker family in Chicago.

The Pritzker jury stated that Doshi “constantly demonstrates that all good architecture and urban planning must not only unite purpose and structure but must take into account climate, site, technique, and craft, along with a deep understanding appreciation of the context in the broadest sense.”

Doshi studied in Mumbai, then moved to Paris in the 1950s and work for the Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Doshi stands out in his architecture design for his wide-ranging works in buildings, from academic institutions, public spaces, and mixed-use complexes, to private residences.

“My works are an extension of my life, philosophy, and dreams trying to create a treasury of the architectural spirit,” Doshi said in a statement in response to the announcement of the award.