The way a city approaches its architecture says a lot about the type of city that it is, or wants to be. Architecture can impress in many ways, it can be innovative, it can use the latest sustainability practices – or it can just go for a bold look-at-me statement.
In Singapore, while some of its city’s buildings conform to these tenets, there is another, very traditional, factor taken into consideration: the Asian mysticism of feng shui. Literally meaning “wind & water”, feng shui is all about balance, and about making an effort to harness the “good energy” that is believed to flow all around us.
Many view Singapore as a successful financial hub in Asia, a far-sighted city that seeks to constantly reinvent itself. Look more closely and you will see a city of harmonious contrasts, where east and west, tradition and modernity exist alongside one another. Nowhere else is this more evident than the many feng shui elements found around the city:
Did you know there are 28 capsules on the Singapore Flyer and that each capsule takes a maximum of 28 persons? And that if you look from a distance at the side of the Conrad International Hotel, you can see how the windows form a giant number 13? Why? Because for the Chinese, numbers form a very large part of good feng shui. The number “eight” is considered exceptional as its pronunciation in Chinese sounds like “luck”, and while the number “thirteen” is considered unlucky in western belief, it is the opposite for the Chinese as the number “three” sounds like “life” in Chinese.
A helping hand
The plot of land where Suntec Singapore mall and convention centre sits also includes four office towers and a large, inward-flowing fountain feature. Together they for the shape of a left hand – where the convention centre is the thumb, the towers are fingers, and the fountain sits in the centre of the palm. Why the left hand? Because most of us give away with our right hand, and receive with our left. And the reason the fountain flows inwards is so that wealth will flow into the hand, not out.
The Singapore $1 coin
Ever looked closely at the Singapore gold dollar coin? If you do, you’ll notice that there is some feng shui at work here too – the coin is hexagonal. In the 1980s, prior to tunnelling underneath the island to make way for the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) underground train system, it was believed that the tunnelling would awaken a sleeping dragon and bring bad luck on the city. The only way to counter this and ensure the ongoing success of the city would be that the entire population had to carry a bagua or six-sided mirror in their pockets. How could this work with Singapore’s multicultural mix? It was decided that the design of the new $1 coin would incorporate the bagua. New coins would always be shiny and have a mirror-like finish, so then the city could sleep safely … the dragon too.