Transformation Of Architectural Movement Cultural Studies Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


It is common desire regardless of nationality or race that one aims to attain happiness, better health, wisdom and success in their daily life. Since ancient time, human beings have started to try different type of methods to obtain the best form of solution to enhance their standard of living. In Asia, as the nations begins to globalise into this new millennium, rapid economic development and city advancement of their country, it have open up their country to the rest of the world. Hence, this has brought an influence and caused a change in the architectural movement of that country. Globalisation is becoming an overwhelming force and is gaining more attention. The use of modern knowledge and advancement of technology has made these solutions even better. However, those tangible solutions have then become common practices while the intangible solutions have started to be neglected. As these countries continues to build better homes, safer infrastructure and faster networks; conversely, they had begun started to neglect their nation's traditional culture beliefs and their principles. One of a popular yet been neglected culture beliefs is "Feng Shui". The rapid globalization over the past decades has seemingly expose Feng Shui to the west. As a result, Feng Shui which is an ancient concept has become a trendy technique as we globalized and how can it be adapted to everyday life with the use of contemporary knowledge that contributes to the quality of life.


The ancient practice of Feng Shui originated in China around 3322 BC. The tradition teaching began in the West Han Dynasty and is believed to be depended and influenced on its topography and its physical surrounding. The energy of the site will cast an effect to people who stay around that location. Positive energy will be healthy while bad energy could be damaging. Since then, regardless of wealth, whether a person is rich or poor, Feng Shui have been incorporated into traditional Chinese architecture. Up till now, as we globalised, the western have gradually began to stir interest in Feng Shui and slowly it had influenced this traditional methods into the other part of the world. Feng Shui is of placement and urban orientation practised by the Chinese. The principles include magnetic orientation, colour, and the use of natural elements (water, wood and so forth). (Indobase, 2008)

Other definitions:"The art of living in harmony with the land and deriving the greatest benefit, peace and prosperity from being in the right place at the right time is called Feng Shui." - S. Skinner, The Living Earth Manual of Feng Shui.

"This well-known word (Feng Shui) means wind/water, but in its wider sense stands for the relations to the surrounding nature, the influence of the landscape, the beauty of the buildings and the happiness of the inhabitants." - Ernst Borschmann, Picturesque, China.

In the past, Feng Shui has been used as a method to decide on the ideal location of placing architecture. Along with the principles of Feng Shui, it helped architects in further determine on the placement of interior elements. For instance, a tiger was required to be in the West and a dragon in the East, which are used to symbolise topographically as mountains, were used as a conceptual or symbolic model for orientating buildings. Sometimes, Feng Shui is being used to protect individual property from external threats by the invaders. High walls are being built and location of openings is carefully identified so as to centralise an area where the defenders can counter attack the invaders. An example of a traditional public building is the Forbidden City in Beijing.

At the present, these traditional principles of Feng Shui which have been carried over to contemporary times have become to certain extend being quite different from how it is being used in the ancient architecture. The transference can be seen in the use of mirrors.

Traditional Shoalin geomancers carried a mirror to avert evil spirits and mirrors can be seen in modern times hanging in windows facing the line of approach on which "Chi" flows. (Scott, K. 2010)

Nowadays, as the chances of being threatened by invaders have lessened, a person does not need to protect themselves to such an extreme extent. A person then begins to look into how can they enhance or improve their quality of living standard as the cautious understanding of these principles on the correct orientation allows positive energy which can improve different aspects of life for instance money, career and relationships. In architecture aspect, the usage of Feng Shui in contemporary architecture in modern countries, aim to protect their residents from the negative influences which can caused danger to both the country from prospering and to individual's life, as desired in ancient times.

Feng Shui had grown to have a profound effect on architecture, city planning, landscaping, and interior design to even the planning and placement of tombs. For many years, emperors have used it to maintain and rules their country, some even used it to an extreme extent as a weapon to increase their power. Today, Feng Shui has become an experience of both living and working in any environment, regardless of interior or exterior, natural or artificial. It is to decode the silent dialogue between humans and their surroundings. (Lip, E. 1997)

Over Feng Shui's long life, what's has it become? In the China, the country of its origin, although the locals still seek the advice when building a home, moving into a new shop or evening burying a member of their family, the government have been seen as to have moved away from this ideology. Skyscrapers are invading the nation at a rapid rate. Throughout Asia, the practice of Feng Shui is regularly a major consideration for any architectural firm or property developer when it comes to designing ubiquitous ultra modern high-rises. And in Singapore, architects and developers have to address both stringent building codes and Feng Shui. (Lip, E. 1997)

At this time, as westernise countries began to get expose to the beliefs, the western altered Feng Shui into many ways to suit it to modern-day life, which is also known as the Western Feng Shui. They do not share the same ideology of a Chinese traditional Feng Shui. (Lip, E. 1997) The question now is, how an ancient Chinese siting and building practice to its new role as a modern western design tool.

People inhabiting different areas of the world are influenced by their political, social and cultural environments, as well as historical and geographical backgrounds of each specific region or nation. As these influences gradually form their particular life and culture, which are then translated into specific spatial forms of buildings and cities. In consequence, different nations produced their own uniquely characteristic national architectural form. (Liu, Laurence G. 1989) Culture has been defined generally as the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempts to meet the challenges of living in their environment which gives order and meaning to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organisation, thus distinguishing a people from their neighbours. (Tmwpng. 2012) It is important as the nation globalised to be reminded the grassroots of the nation as it's developed. It is because culture has the history of both has their own effect in the life of the nation. If we lost these cultures, it is as good as the nation doesn't exist; it does not have any identity and will not be recognised by any other countries. As a result, the country may eventually even be taken over.

"To have no cultural and traditional and country background to your memories is equal to having no education. Lover of town as I am, I realise that I owe a debt to my early country life. Again and again, in hours of disquiet, I have gone back in spirit to those country days of childhood, and have always found something in recollected smell of the earth and picture of my old village to rest upon". - Thomas Burke (As quoted from Tmwpng. 2012)

The young generation today need to practice or be educated with the rich cultures of the country, so that they are preserved for the future generations. Our traditions and cultures will be lost if they are not passed on. These values can help to develop and mould human's attitudes and characters to be productive, useful, purposely and progressive lives. Our culture is important to the future of our children and to our nation, because culture ensures a history, a past, present and certainly a future. (Tmwpng. 2012) It is also acted as a reminder or a lesson to be learned to our future, so as they will not fall into making the same mistake as before. This can cause damages to the country's economy and even to a human's life.

For that reason, it is necessary to hand down such an important legacy to an informed and prepared generation. The future of the nation lies in the hands of this generation. They must carry this identity forward so that the next and the followings can be nurtured and cultured.

While it is important to retain or preserved these culture, it is also important to keep up to date with globalisation. If the nations do not keep up with globalisation, that country will be at a huge disadvantage. It is because, that country will lose the attention from the outside world which in the long run, may cause them to lose their reputation and at the same time the chance to prospect the country's economy. In architecture aspect, there will be lesser opportunity for architect to have projects in that country as there is already a template or a certain method of constructing the building.

Due to the limited resource on earth, keeping modernity is beneficial, but only to a certain extent. There is no doubt that the regards toward tradition has been strongly admired, but it has gone to a stage where it seem like the appreciation for tradition has reached its limit. Technological advancement has marvellously increased the dimension and diversity that leads to a huge numbers of breakthroughs for the world. For instance, with the limitation of land, it has allowed the creation of vertical architecture, the construction of high-rise apartment, skyscrapers and even to the extent of constructing floating architecture.

As the world globalised, the better of infrastructures has also allowed travelling and migration become easier. People have the freedom of choices in selection of which country or nation they would like to migrate. For this reason, when people migrated, they brought along their cultural practices from their country of origin. And with the increase of amount of immigrants migrating to the same country or nation, this will eventually caused a change in the political, social and cultural environments of that state. One good example is Singapore, due to the lack of population; the government had started to accept citizens from other countries.

"Without immigration, we will face a shrinking workforce and the prospect of a shrinking economy," said Teo. Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean. (As quoted from Fong, K. 2012)

One should not interpret Culture as a return to the customs of the past. It symbolizes the attitude of people to the future of their traditional values faced with the demands of modern technology, which is a critical factor that will influence the development and progress. (Tmwpng. 2012)

Feng Shui applications are a valuable architectural resource. With improved technology, urbanisation and a more materialistic and economic orientation, we have become more and more disconnected with the natural world. Feng Shui may be a means to return balance and positive energies to our living and working environments. The term most consistently used in place of Feng Shui in classical Chinese contexts is known as geography, the land patterns. This, therefore, indicates that Feng Shui was not intended as superstition but as an part of the study of the land itself and the patterns on it, both natural and manmade.

Therefore, Feng Shui is seemed to have the similar studies as the theory used in the western countries nowadays, Critical Regionalism. The two studied the use of contextual knowledge which influenced the design and the outcome of architecture. Critical regionalism is an approach to architecture that strives to counter the placelessness and lack of meaning in Modern Architecture by using contextual forces to give a sense of place and meaning. (Ramesh, S. 2007) It is understand that as post-modern architecture have seemly taken over the trend of traditional old classical style, postmodern architect has seem to have begun to disturb the development of the architectural movement around the globe. Rather than sticking to the historicity of their design style, these architects have began to produce design that are more aesthetic and functional than to designs that doesn't gave the architecture, a true meaning to its building and its surrounding. The first person who used these theories or these sets of rules is Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre. But it only started to get famous when by Kenneth Frampton, in his essay, Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six points of an architecture of resistance. (Ramesh, S. 2007)

According to Frampton, before the start to build any architecture, there a need to understand the basic program in the building but at the same time also the consideration of the values that will response to the context. Emphasis should be on topography, climate, light, tectonic form rather than scenography and the tactile sense rather than the visual. (Ramesh, S. 2007) From here, it can draw evidence that there is a linkage between the Critical Regionalism and Feng Shui. The studies of the context and the understanding of it, has led to an outcome of how can this set of rule, to be followed as the world globalised and eventually change the living experiences of a lifetime. For example, these two theories look into the elements that can be found on the site or a particular space. How can the architect deal with the research found and be able to create or adopt a new and modern way of employing the local culture into the consideration which can deter a change in the architecture and most importantly the standard of living or the quality of lives. Not forgetting creating a chance or possibility into bringing the 'nature' into the new architecture or vice versa by linking the space back with the 'nature'. The two set of principle should rely on the organic unity of local material, climatic, and cultural characteristics to lend coherence to the finished work. Cultural Center Jean Marie Tjibaou and Sydney Opera House are some of the examples that have used the theory of Critical Regionalism into the consideration for the architecture.

Case Studies


Renzo Piano, J. M. Tjibaou Cultural Center, Numea

Before the start of the design thinking, Piano studied the use of the context and used the founding to express the traditions of the Pacific with a modern language. The project builds on the topography of land, vegetation and the breeze from the lagoon to create rising air currents, which are then removed by extraction towers, with the distinction of being the highest building on the top of the hill. (, 1991)

Picture2.jpgPicture3.jpgJorn Utzon, Sydney Opera House, Australia

Jorn Utzon's Sydney Opera House was completed in 1973. With the appearance of thin, billowing shape on the roof, it was to resemble the sail of boats on the Sydney Harbour in the olden days. It is clearly shown that, the architect had utilised the understanding of its context which influenced the architecture. And to keep and with time and modernity, the billowing shape was built with the use of concrete forms, a modern material, evidence to how the architect has balanced tradition with modernity.

In term of local context, Singapore has it newest iconic architecture, the Marina Bay Sands.


It is where one of the two casinos is located. The programs in the architecture aim to help the country to increase prosperity to their economy. With it being their new source of revenue, the question is, how it can be designed to maximise its usage. The architecture is designed by architect, Moshe Safdie. One of his first principles that form the basis of his design philosophy and approach to architecture and urban planning is to respond to the essence of place. Specific to the place and culture, his designs are inspired by traces of history, cultural background and integrated into our social diversity. (Lim, E. 2011)

"Marina Bay Sands is really more than a building project, it is a microcosm of a city rooted in Singapore's culture, climate and contemporary life," says Moshe Safdie.

Marina Bay Sand was designed in consideration to the peacefulness water of the reservoir and with the city's skyline. In addition, it has further developed the nation as an iconic status of being a dynamic, vibrant and contemporary lifestyle hub. In term of Feng Shui, it is important that the design of a building or house integrates or blends into and with the surrounding landscape or neighbouring buildings. As a result, the Marina Bay Sand had successfully coexisted in the harmony with the physical environment.


In the face of the challenge of new social priorities, the historical tradition doesn't seem to offer a ready platform to address the new demands. Feng Shui has retained an important set of principles in Chinese culture and architecture from traditional to contemporary times. This could be because 'geomancy in China was an integral part of a complex philosophical concept bringing together a number of important principles' (Braswell-Means, 2006, p. 140). The facts that Feng Shui has continued be used through this time is because there is still a certain percentage that believed this Chinese culture. Feng Shui is unique in terms of its own values to contemporary design; it can be camouflaged into modern architecture. Consequently, creating a new trend and at the same time improving human life simultaneously and no longer being considered as a superstitious or religious component. The relationship between Feng Shui and architecture is that it metaphysics linked human being staying or working in that building with their environment. (Lip,E. 1997) Its philosophy is that it will balanced the surrounding positively affect the health, fortunes and lives of inhabitants. Feng Shui is growing to have an intense effect on architecture nowadays, for the ones who seek to improve and have a better standard of living. Recently, architects have becoming more and more intense to call for the retaining of local tradition while at the same time embracing contemporary modernity.

Globalization has caused an irresistible incursion of western architectural culture, but the decision to give up tradition culture or not for the sake of modernity is a complex decision. Therefore, there is a need to have the basic understanding of local history and culture as well as a smart approach to modernity. Architect must find a compromise between globalisation and localization in order to retain their local traditions and features, without being left behind globally. (ZHI, W., XU, J., & LUO, X. 2009)

In the context of Singapore, how can the nation keep up with globalization and at the same time not forgetting about the need to retain its traditional unique culture, a hybrid of different races plus the incoming of new citizens? The architectural transformation of this nation has been changed dramatically. The architecture of Singapore displays a range of influences and styles from different places and periods. Most of the architecture in Singapore is styles influenced from the other part of the world as the nation globalised.

How can the application of the theory, Critical Regionalism been successfully adapted in a country like Singapore. Does their context have a fruitful meaning compare to the other countries? Hence, will it allow the nation to find its own style of architectures that may have been forgotten over the years which maybe a chance to influence or become a trend to the other countries? Every country would like to show the best of their nation to the world, it can be very beneficial to the country. However, one should be reminded that, it is not the ability of how much have a nation had developed over the years, but it is that how much can the country be able to retain its traditional as they developed into the new century.

3091 words

Reference List (1991) Cultural Center Jean Marie Tjibaou - WikiArquitectura - Buildings of the World. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 31 Oct 2012].

Fong, K. (2012) S'pore needs to attract new immigrants: DPM Teo | SingaporeScene - Yahoo! News Singapore. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 25 Oct 2012]. (n.d.) History Of Feng Shui -Origin Of Feng Shui -Chinese Feng Shui. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 25 Oct 2012].

Lim, E. (2011) PROSPER TIMES. [e-book] Singapore: CHANG Consultancy. p.Page 3 [Accessed: 30 oct 2012].

Lip, E. (1997). What is feng shui? London, Academy Editions

Liu, Laurence G. Chinese architecture LIU, L. G. (1989). Chinese architecture. New York, Rizzoli.

Ramesh, S. (2007) Critical Regionalism. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 29 Oct 2012].

Tmwpng. (2012) The Importance of traditional cultures and indigenous practices. The Melanesian Way Inc. Papua New Guinea, [blog] 23 04 2007, Available at: [Accessed: 25 Oct 2012].

Zhi, Wenjun. Xu, Jie. Luo, Xiaowei, 1925-. New Chinese architecture / ZHI, W., XU, J., & LUO, X. (2009). New Chinese architecture. London, Laurence King Publishing.