Curves & Waves & Angles, Oh My! — More Feng Shui Views of Big Buildings


The simple curve here represents the element Metal.

A simple curve represents the element Metal, but more complicated curves (like waves) represent Water. The two buildings discussed in this article are across the road from each other in Honolulu, specifically in the Kaka‘ako Ward area, right near the building I discussed in Part Two of this blog series. The building in the foreground of this photo, the A‘eo project, has a simple curve at the corner. It’s repeated sixteen times in the open awning. This gives the building the symbolism of Metal (plus the awning is made of metal).

The tall building across the road, the Anaha, is about as wavy a building as I’ve ever seen. The waviness combined with the blue-tinted glass give the building a very strong Water element.


You might say this pool is spreading the wealth (water) around the neighborhood.

There’s a lot of cantilevering going on in the building and that’s a feng shui problem signifying lack of support. Not so good for the residents, but the outside corners of the buildings have no sharp right angles — so it’s a great building to have as a neighbor because it does not create poison arrows.

The cantilevered pool (the bright, pale blue spot jutting out, just below the center of the photo, in case you can’t tell) is quite striking, and would be more so if they allowed skinny dipping, but in addition to the cantilever problem discussed above, there’s the fact that it’s water protruding out. Water represents money, so the symbolism is that money/wealth is leaving the building. It’s the same issue when a building has a fountain with the water flowing away.

The positive way to look at this situation is that the wealth is going out into the neighborhood, helping everybody. (That’s the way I describe a lot of the fountains around the buildings in downtown Honolulu when I give my feng shui walks.)

In addition to the wavy tower, the Anaha complex also has a shorter component (seen in the foreground of this photo) that seems to have very good feng shui. The main element of the short building is Earth because of the strong horizontal design elements. Also, there are no cantilevers so it feels very grounded and supported.


The designers meant this pattern to represent wind, but in feng shui, the curves represent water.

Here’s a look at the punched metal screens of the A‘eo building. The folded screens are placed in a wavy pattern, which the building designers intended to represent wind patterns. (An a‘eo is a Hawaiian bird.) However, there is no feng shui element for air or wind (as there is in some cultures) so the design instead represents water from a feng shui point of view. The Water element is added to a building that already has two other elements represented — Metal (because of all the exposed metal) and Earth (because it’s basically a horizontal building).

In the background of the photo, you can see the tower portion of the A‘eo project, which is almost completed. That building has very little going for it, feng shui-wise. There’s some cantilevering going on, plus it’s not very friendly to its neighbors because of the sharp right angles at the corners. And, as it that wasn’t enough, sharp angles jut out from the sides of the building causing even more poison arrows.

Feng Shui & Tiny Buildings

My home library’s selection of tiny-home titles. (I unfortunately returned the beautiful Nomadic Homes book before I remembered ask Steve to take this photo!)

I’ve been writing a series of articles on large buildings, and it seems appropriate to interject an article on small buildings—as yin/yang balance. It’s easier for a small building to have good feng shui than it is for a large building—especially homes.

Tiny homes are quite trendy now. There’s something very practical about them, and they certainly force you to deal with your clutter (which regular blog readers know I am firmly against). I used to live in a very tiny home. In the late 1970s and the early 1980s I lived in an old smokehouse in Hotrock, Tennessee. (It was called Hotrock because years ago, a certain big flat rock on the nearby Elk River was used for gambling.) Hotrock is about 30 miles from Huntsville, Alabama, where I had founded my second bookstore, Books as Seeds. The building I was living in was about was about nine feet by eleven feet. The thing that made it very livable was the bed I built, which folded into a wall, with a built-in bookcase. The room never felt like a bedroom until just before I crawled into bed.

We have three books on tiny buildings in our own home library, and I checked out another from the library system. The book from the library is fairly new and it’s called Nomadic Homes—and it’s from Taschen. (Need I say more?) I had looked at the Taschen Publishing catalog (which does not look like a regular catalog at all) hoping that a certain three-volume set on Art Nouveau architecture in Europe was in the library system, but alas—no. So I settled for Nomadic Homes which was in the same catalog. Truthfully, there’s no such thing as “settling for” when it comes to a book published by Taschen. The book is huge and packed full of innovative ideas and stunning pictures. (Interlibrary loan is totally free in Hawaii, within the state—so rush on down to your local library to pick it up. You can easily request it online on the state website).

A Hut of One’s Own: Life Outside the Circle of Architecture by Ann Cline could not be a more different kind of book. The Taschen book is yang and this little book with black and white photos is quite yin. It’s from MIT and those folks really know how to make interesting architecture books. This one feels very meditative.

Small Buildings by Mike Cadwell is another small size book with B&W photos, and it’s mostly photos, whereas the previous book was mostly words. The buildings are simple, chunky, arty buildings, and it’s in the “pamphlet” series from Princeton Architectural Press.

Micro: Very Small Buildings by Ruth Slavid is from Lawrence King Publishing, and even though I didn’t know of that publisher before, I immediately respect them. The book has a nicely innovative binding of two very hard and thick cardboard boards that are the natural wood pulp color of unbleached paper. That’s the first thing everyone says about this book—how nice it feels. And it turns out to be a major study of small buildings worldwide, with lots of color photos.

As far as feng shui is concerned, a tiny home is like a multivitamin pill—a lot of umpf in a very small space. If you get your feng shui right (especially emphasizing the bagua areas that you want to work on) you will know about it in your life. And the caution is: that if you get the feng shui wrong—like putting the bathroom in the Wealth Corner—you’ll also know about it.

Feng Shui & Big Tall Buildings, Part 2

This is one of the newer buildings in Honolulu. It’s the Waiea building in Kakaako. And it’s one of the few buildings that I’ve seen that says water as much as wood. The wavy shape of the blue glass surface of this side of the building screams water.

Not every side of the building looks like this. The repeated horizontal planes of the balcony floors on the other sides say earth, because horizontal is the shape for the feng shui element earth (think of looking at a flat horizon—that’s how the horizontal symbolism began). Because the horizontal balcony floors are repeated a lot they give more importance to the earth element. (You can see some of those horizontal balcony lines at the upper left corner of this image; there’s also a good photo on the building’s website that shows the whole thing, with a balcony side clearly visible.)

Waiea means “Water of Life” so that adds to the water element, as do the outside water features at the base of the building. Though the pools and waterfalls look elegant, they’re not great from a feng shui perspective. That’s because the building actually cantilevers out over the water feature, with the support of some (very) large round poles. (I covered cantilevering in my post on the Capitol building exterior and there’s a whole section called “Houses on Poles” in Feng Shui for Hawaii to explain why it’s bad and how to address it.)

Furthermore, the waterfalls surrounding the building all direct the water away from the building. I hope most folks know by now why that’s a bad idea—because water (representing wealth) is flowing away from the building—money leaving. Nothing that a few well-placed tiny mirrors couldn’t fix! If you need a refresher, start with my post on “Using Fountains Properly for Feng Shui” and also consult Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens section “Pools and Ponds.”

The main silhouette that the building presents is of a vertical rectangle, and that represents wood. The importance of the silhouette comes from the length of time that the shape of the building can noticed after the sun goes down and before the sun comes up. The silhouette is noticeable for a longer length of time, and that matters a great deal in feng shui.

So for this building, the percentage of the elements is something like this:

  • 40% water
  • 40% wood
  • 20% earth

Making a feng shui judgement about whether or not a particular building will enhance prosperity for the residents is an extremely complicated subject. I’m not going to attempt it in this article, and I may never attempt it in any book I write. It is literally the most complicated thing I do in feng shui. But I will say this: a water building that is close to a lot of actual water doesn’t usually benefit from the fact that the element is water. The best way I can describe it is that water part of the environment cannot feed the water part of the elemental symbolism.

Be sure to read Part 1 of this series on buildings (if you haven’t already) for more on determining a building’s element and what you might do in your decor if you live in a water building.

Big Tall Buildings: A Feng Shui View

The Pacific Honda dealership and Capitol Place condo building in downtown Honolulu. Water and wood are almost equally represented here.

I occasionally offer feng shui walks of downtown Honolulu. In the walks, I discuss (mostly) the relationships of the buildings to each other—are they making poison arrows at neighboring buildings. I also discuss the elements of the individual buildings—it’s a valuable skill to learn. It takes practice to develop the skill, and I’ve had lots of it and like to share the knowledge with other people. If you’re ever on Oahu around Chinese New Year, it’s likely that I’ll be giving one of these walks. (The walks are free, but it’s best to contact me in advance if you want to attend.)

In this series of articles, I won’t discuss the relationships of the buildings to each other. That discussion is best done in person and on site. Not even a video is going to really show you the complex three-dimensional relationships of the various buildings to each other.) In this series of articles (and especially in this first article) I’ll discuss how to decide what element a building is, according to feng shui.

The classification of a building into one of the five elements are mostly decided by shape. All the buildings in this series of articles will have in common that they are all tall buildings, and a vertical rectangle shape is always the element wood. If there’s any kind of waviness to the shape of the building, the element water is also represented.

Color and building material are also factors in deciding the element of the building, but they’re not as important as shape. With building material, we’re mostly concerned with what’s called cladding. It’s not necessarily (and not usually in a lot of modern buildings) the structural material (the bones of the building—and in this series of articles, the buildings are all quite big, supported by steel, which is obviously the element metal). The supporting structure of a building isn’t a significant factor because you don’t usually see it. The visual layer is the big deal in feng shui—the really big deal!

Buildings are almost always more than one element. The primary element is called primary for good reason: it’s really the thing that you go by 99% of the time. The secondary element (or elements, plural, in some buildings) is only taken into account when the building has factors that give two different elements almost equal prominence. That’s the case in the first building in this series, pictured at the top of this post—it’s in downtown Honolulu at the corner of Beretania and Bishop streets (right where Bishop become Pali Highway). Water and wood are almost equally represented.

The color of the glass is made more important on this building, because the balconies are (comparatively) minimal, and that makes the large vertical planes of glass very noticeable. (Balconies on a building chop up the view of the glass, so the glass is less visually important on those buildings.) The glass on this building made even more visually important by having it tinted blue. Blue says water—like the blue ocean.

More things that say water are the wavy blue line, and the word Pacific at the lower part of the building. Since water represents money in feng shui, one wonders whether there’s a financial advantage to living in a water building. Well, the owner of this particular building is quite wealthy (as, I suspect, are the owners of most big buildings), dare I say notoriously wealthy. But what about the people who live in a water building? It all depends on how the individual condos and apartments are laid out and decorated. If I lived in a water building, I’d have my predominate decor be wood, because wood is nourished by water, so the symbolism would be that the building feeds the unit—prosperity growing.

Clutter & Sanity

I had a client who was perpetually overwhelmed. His phrase for it was “Everything, everything.” I’ve said before that every object in your home has a voice, and clutter speaks, too. The commonsense message of clutter is: “I’ve got too much to handle already—I can’t handle any more!”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, clutter is likely to be manifesting somewhere in your life. If you’re overwhelmed, then make it all more manageable by dealing with the clutter in stages. Each stage will make the next stage that much easier.

Floor. I’ve also said that clutter symbolizes stagnation in your life. How can you get anywhere with all that stuff in your way? So in this stage, your first goal is to be able to walk from room to room without stepping on clutter. First make pathways, then clear clutter off the entire floor.

Horizontal surfaces between shoulder height and coffee table height. Declutter those particular tables and shelves. That last sentence is, in itself, overwhelming for someone with major clutter. So, for those folks (you know who you are) it’s best to just slightly rearrange the clutter first. The goal is to see the edge of the top of every table. And you should be able to see the front edges of all shelves between those two heights. Once that is done for the whole room, and you feel ready for the next stage, remove the decorative objects from the one particular table or shelf that you’re working on. Put them in a box, and label it where they came from and when. Deal with the non-decorative objects, clean the tabletop and put on it the useful objects that should stay there. If there’s room for decorative objects, only put those items out that conform to the symbolism of the bagua of the room.

Walls. Heaven help you if you have wall clutter—some of it has got to go (at least into storage). Start with any words that are on the wall.  Any decorative objects on your walls should conform to the bagua symbolism. I know I just said that, but it’s so important not to be working against yourself.