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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Using Feng Shui in Offices and Stores

Using Feng Shui in Offices and Stores - New York Times: "Using Feng Shui in Offices and Stores

FENG SHUI seemed destined to go the way of hippie communes, ridiculed as a bourgeois lifestyle fad. Instead, like yoga and organic food, the ancient Chinese practice of positioning objects, buildings and even whole communities to maximize the flow of energy, or chi, has penetrated the culture beyond the New Age world of crystals and chimes.

"Growing up in Brooklyn, the closest I came to feng shui was the Chinese laundry," said Robert A. Levine, president and chief executive of the RAL Companies, a real estate development and management firm. "I thought of feng shui as a lifestyle for certain people versus something to implement in terms of commercial development projects."

But his perspective changed when he met Alex Stark in 1999, after one of his joint-venture partners wanted to use feng shui on a commercial project. Mr. Stark, he said, "changed my thought process."

Mr. Stark, who has a private feng shui consulting practice based in Brooklyn, began studying feng shui in the late 1980's and has been riding the feng shui crest as it has flowed from an esoteric residential practice primarily used as a self-help tool to offices and retail spaces and to entire commercial projects. He has worked with Mr. Levine on several commercial and residential developments, including RAL's offices at 86 Chambers Street.

Walking through the offices, Mr. Levine said that even before he started consulting Mr. Stark, the firm's corporate-identity color was red, which he was pleased to learn is a feng shui symbol of authority and power. Red paint is used throughout the 10,000-square-foot office space on the seventh floor of a building that RAL bought in January 2001. To break up the long, monotonous corridors so common in offices, Mr. Stark recommended hanging some ceiling panels below the ceiling level and putting lighting fixtures at angles to the ceiling. To maximize the flow of light to interior spaces, dividing walls are made of frosted glass.

Mr. Stark, who charges $300 an hour, recommends both minor solutions - for instance, not letting a clock be the first thing one sees on entering a space, except a train station or an airport, because it raises stress levels - and major design changes, like relocating a building's entrance.

"It's much better to be in on a project from the beginning, so you can do true site planning, rather than trying to come in after the fact and fix things," Mr. Stark said. "Beautiful ancient Chinese buildings aren't filled with kitsch. It's the problematic spaces that require chimes and crystals."

One client that brought Mr. Stark in from the beginning was the Institute of Integral Nutrition, a school that takes a holistic approach to teaching dietary theories. Founded in New York in 1994, the school tripled its enrollment in the last three years and needed to relocate its headquarters to a larger space. Mr. Stark visited potential office spaces and prepared reports on their pros and cons from a feng shui perspective.

The school's offices moved into 5,000 square feet on East 28th Street early last month, after spending about $100 a square foot on construction. The arrangements closely follow Mr. Stark's diagram, called a bagua, which indicates how energy forces are distributed throughout the space.

According to feng shui principles, harmony is achieved when the use of a space is compatible with its energy sector. For instance, because of the school's curriculum, Mr. Stark positioned the kitchen in the fame and reputation sector, which was determined by the bagua, or floor diagram. He put the conference room in the networking and helpful-people corner.

To determine how individual offices should be arranged, he interviewed the entire staff. From those interviews, Mr. Stark also determined what color to repaint one wall in each office (preferably the wall behind the occupant's desk), to maximize its potential. For instance, green represents growth, a good color for a person handling daily business matters and revenue.

"There are so many camps of feng shui," said Nathan Patmor, the school's managing director. "It can get very detailed and miss the big picture. Alex gives practical, usable recommendations." "

Great article about how Feng Shui is being used in commercial applications, don't you think?

Sam, Feng Shui Tips


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