CHI by Tan Li Xing

Conception

Initial research began with water features and water fountains, which led me to the more spiritual aspect of why water features are used in architecture and space. Further research revealed how water has power in Feng Shui and how it is seen of high importance due to its ability to activate Chi and is also part of the five main elements of Feng Shui.

Feng Shui is a traditional Chinese philosophical system that is used in the discussion of man and architecture, often applied so as to harmonise everyone in the household with the surrounding environment by observing heavenly time and earthly space. It encompasses theories created by Lao Zi, the father of Taoism, as well as reading of complex charts in order to situate the human-built environment on spots with good Chi so that one is able to find and attain balance and harmony with his/her surroundings.

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Titled Chi, this is my interpretation of how I understood the traditional philosophical system of Feng Shui through research of how water played a key role in this system. Chi is a metaphoric term, which is otherwise also known as the energy of “invisible forces” that binds the universe, earth and man together in Feng Shui. Water activates Chi, and Chi is the movable positive or negative life force which rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water. Thus, water is able to dictate whether Chi is to be activated, barricaded or circulated. It creates this flow of movement which is also apparent in the Cycle of Creativity and Cycle of Destruction, the continuous cycles of how the five element of Feng Shui interact with one another. It is also through this flow that harmony and balance is achieved, forming Yin and Yang, which is often seen on ba-guas (physical instrument used in Feng Shui readings). As such, in short, the deliverables are based on the key concept of the flow of the Chi movement as well as the pursuit of duality, balance and harmony.

Target Audience: Young couples, newlyweds or families

Deliverables: (1) A series of Puzzles  |  (2) Book  |  (3) Packaging

Young couples or newlyweds cohabiting together are my target audiences as they are more likely to get a living space of their own to get hands on with designing the space. I wanted them to realise that there is so much more to an empty room (the underlying concept of Feng Shui) and the different ways they can go about designing the space professionally and aesthetically accordingly such that they are living in harmony and feel balanced with the surroundings. In order to convey the sense of flow of Chi to my audience, I brainstormed for ways that it can be presented without being too obvious or vague that the deliverables were related to Feng Shui. A series of puzzles was my main choice of medium to intrigue the audience’s attention, followed by an accompanying book that explains the whole philosophical part of Feng Shui, of which the audience can then cross reference with the puzzles after understanding it. The last medium is packaging, to compile and tie everything together in a simple, concise manner so that the audience would not be bombarded with too much information at once and know how they can go about applying what they’ve learnt from my project in their daily lives. The choice of purely black and white as the colour scheme throughout all 3 deliverables was to create consistency without going off track on the topic of Feng Shui.

(1) A series of Puzzles

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The series of puzzles include: the puzzle of the Cycle of Creation, the ba-gua puzzle and the puzzle of the Cycle of Destruction. The puzzles were designed to be circular due to the tai chi symbol of the Yin and the Yang, which forms a circle using positive and negative spaces. Therefore, even for the ba-gua, which is usually octagon-shaped, it is designed to be circular in this case for a more abstract representation of the standard ba-guas we see out there. How the puzzles work is that the audience is to remove the lids of the puzzles to roll the magnetic ball around and manipulate the different layers so that they form a particular shape that represents certain theories in Feng Shui. Once done, rolling the magnetic ball back to the metal eyelet in the centre so they attract each another would symbolise the attainment of balance and harmony. The making of these puzzles took longer than I had expected due to the constant changes in materials used for each mockup puzzle. I didn’t use the laser cutting machine to do die cuts for the individual pieces as I kept trying different materials (hard plastic, mounting board, hard boards etc) to see which works best with the thin layers that the audience has to manipulate in order to realise or learn about a certain theory in Feng Shui.

(2) Book

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As for the book, most of the content are centralised to portray the idea of balance. Dimensions of the book was restricted to a square format to also portray the idea of balance, having equal lengths and sides so the series of puzzles can fit inside harmoniously. The book was relatively easier than the making of the puzzles, minor hiccups with this medium was the alignment of the pages during printing.

(3) Packaging

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Everything is organised into the square box as a whole package which then can be given to young couples or newlyweds as a gift for them to learn how to decorate or design their house in the way that they can live in harmony with their new surroundings. The exterior of the box is mainly black while the interior of the box is mainly white – again relating to the idea of Yin and Yang and the sense of balance. What I would have done better if I had more time would be to re-think and re-design how the packaging could be improved to better convey the sense of balance and harmony not only using colours but perhaps the way the box opens up or is sectioned.

Conclusion

What I really enjoyed and learnt most through this project is that the thought process plays a crucial role in design thinking. Every design element should have a proper reason for their existence in order for the deliverables to be consistent and cohesive. Design isn’t just all about aesthetics but also the way people associate to things with reasoning, logical thinking and semiotics. If the whole idea and rationale is strong, any medium would be possible to explore and to work with.

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