Steffen Welsch Architects achieve climate conscious Feng Shui

FENG SHUI HOUSE: There is a surprising correlation between Feng Shui and what we call "good design": sunlight access; air and ventilation; balance of natural light; equal relationship between inside and out; comfort and privacy, balance of materials; a well organised environment. Photos: Shannon McGrath

FENG SHUI HOUSE: There is a surprising correlation between Feng Shui and what we call "good design": sunlight access; air and ventilation; balance of natural light; equal relationship between inside and out; comfort and privacy, balance of materials; a well organised environment. Photos: Shannon McGrath

The practice of Feng Shui originated in China, about 6000 years ago. It literally translates to "wind and water" and is a concept aimed to design and plan buildings and their surroundings for harmony and happiness.

Its three core principles are: allow energy to flow; balance between natural elements with their own sets of attributes - colour, texture and shape; place objects that represent your life's journey within a space.

To a Westerner only vaguely familiar with some of the specific theories and ideas, there is a surprising correlation between Feng Shui and what we would call "good design": sunlight access; air and ventilation; balance of natural light; equal relationship between inside and out; comfort and privacy, balance of materials; a well organised environment.

In this Melbourne home renovation Steffen Welsch Architects restored the old terrace, adding a new curved timber wall at the end of the hallway as a link between old and new and a barrier to the street.

The extension is separated with a courtyard to allow sunlight into the old, and natural light and ventilation into the new house. The hall linking the terrace with the extension was widened to include a study with outdoor access. The curved timber wall, enclosing storage, leads into the kitchen.

The architect placed the dining room, a busy, engaging and open space, between the stairs and the kitchen, to encourage conversation.

The timber floor of the dining room continues into the ceiling of the adjacent lounge, a retreat with a sense of calmness looking back into the house, courtyard and the garden.

The upstairs rooms - more exposed to sun, wind and rain - are formed to achieve a balance between shelter from the elements and exploring views.

The best form of interaction is the coincidental. The brick platforms used as seats facing the dining space and lounge allow for this type of interaction. The lounge room walls draw sunlight into the dining room, while the stairwell forms a large void prioritising space over utilities.

Like any building project, the Feng Shui house aims to balance user needs with cost, both financial and environmental. To build with a climate conscious framework requires building less, and in order to be accepted we need to build better qualities with lesser means. The architect achieved this by applying principles of balance, meticulous planning and playing with space and scale.

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