Behind the many buildings and structures in Singapore, fengshui has played a major role. Fengshui is a Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of Heaven and Earth to improve one’s life. Irene Chong, a fengshui expert who runs a business specialising in fortune-telling and fengshui, talks about how fengshui has influenced the architecture of five major buildings in Singapore.
The Singapore Flyer is currently the tallest Ferris wheel in the world — and an impressive sight. When it opened in 2008, tickets for the first three nights were sold out, reaping SGD$8,888 in sales — a lucky number because the number ‘8’ sounds similar to the Chinese word for ‘prosperity.’ Interestingly, the Flyer has 28 capsules, each of which can hold a maximum of 28 people. Now, ‘2’ and ‘8’ when put together sounds like ‘easy prosperity.’
However, the Flyer experienced a spate of accidents in 2008. Fengshui masters had their analysis: the wheel was turning the wrong way, they said. A lot of logistical and technical changes later, the wheel’s direction was reversed. “[Originally], the wheel was turning towards the financial district and then out towards the open sea. This brings fortune away. In fengshui, water is good — it signifies wealth. Therefore, the wheel should be turning in from the water to the financial district,” explains Irene.
Marina Bay Sands
There has been plenty of debate about the fengshui surrounding Marina Bay Sands (MBS). The three-tower structure of the MBS may remind Chinese folk of ancestral tablets — a bad omen because of the association with death. However, Irene disagrees. “The broadening base makes it look different,” she insists.
In fact, the three towers could be said to represent the three pillars of luck, prosperity and longevity. Meanwhile, the three domes sitting in front of the towers symbolise three coins signs of prosperity. Additionally, the area around the MBS can be considered a hub of prosperity, flanked by the Singapore Flyer and the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum (the lotus is a symbol of good fortune and enlightenment). Irene adds, “[The financial district] is full of rectangular buildings, which are strong in the earth element. Water surrounds this area, and water nurtures wood. This is why this area is so rich.”
Grand Hyatt Singapore
Walk up to the Grand Hyatt and the first thing you’ll notice are the oddly angled glass doors — a deliberate implementation based on the advice of Venerable Sek Hong Choon. This was deemed necessary because the hotel didn’t do well when it first opened in spite of its good location. Venerable Sek pointed out that the doors, flat and running parallel to the long reception desk, depicts wealth flowing out. To break this flow, the main doors were made to jut out at an angle.
The rule of thumb, Irene says, is to avoid placing doors parallel to symbols of importance — in this case the reception desk, which signifies money. This applies to the home as well. The simplest way to rectify this is to erect a curtain or build a partition to stop the outflow.
A fountain (water being a sign of wealth) was built at the hotel’s rear, and the reception desk was moved as well. Believe it or not, it was rumoured that the Grand Hyatt received an urgent phone call the day the fountain was activated as an aeroplane had been grounded and 300 stranded passengers needed a place to stay!
An iconic building, Tangs Plaza stands out for its distinctly oriental design, with green-tiled pagoda roof and firecracker-red pillars. It was built directly opposite a cemetery known as Tai San Ting — not such a great location in terms of luck — but Tangs nevertheless went on to prosper.
This can perhaps be attributed to the octagonal shapes found all around: Tangs tower (now the Marriott Hotel), an eight-sided pagoda, stands tall and proud. The floors have tiles arranged in an octagon pattern and octagonal pillars are bookended by plinths and polygonal outlines at the top. According to Irene, the placement of the building’s entrance at the junction of Scotts Road and Orchard Road is a prosperous one.
The area around Wheelock Place is a hotspot of activity. Irene feels that the protruding tip and sharp edges that make up the exterior of Wheelock Place symbolise the element of fire. “Fire is a strong element, and full of yang energy — of life force.” This is why surrounding buildings have taken steps to defend themselves from this force.
The clock towers outside Shaw Theatres Lido and the two stone lions standing guard at the entrance of Tangs Plaza deflect some of that energy back to Wheelock Place in order not to be ‘burnt,’ so to speak. “According to the cycle of elements, water counters fire. ION Orchard, with its wavy [exterior], is of the water element, and therefore capable of protecting itself from Wheelock Place’s life force” Irene says.