Feng Shui in Public Spaces

Simon Brown has worked with many atchitects, project managers and designers on various airport terminal projects. These include those in Turin, Venice, Cape Verde, and Paris. Through this work Simon has developed feng shui specifically to contribute to the design of public spaces.


The secret to applying feng shui to the design of any public building is to decide how you would like people to feel in each part of the building and then design in the kind of atmosphere to encourage the people using that space to feel teh way you intended.

For me there are a few essential design aids

1 Make sure the building has a feature that becomes a talking point around the world. This gets the building free publicity and makes it more of an attraction.

2 Think of the process of moving through a large building such as an airport as a story. From kerbside to airside it needs an exciting beginning, interesting middle and satisfying ending. Similarly arriving passengers should be treated to the same kind of journey.

3 Match the atmosphere of each part of the buidling with the way you would like people to feel by using colours, materials and form.

To demonstrate this I will use the example of an airport.


Entering an airport terminal marks the beginning of you journey and here the atmosphere of the airport can reflect some the excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead. Many modern airports capture this with high ceilings, hard surfaces, bright lights and large open spaces.

All this encourages faster chi flow with the result that peoples own emotional energy picks up. In feng shui terms the energy of the space becomes more yang with the result that people also become more yang emotionally.

Check in desks are places where passengers will make their first connection with a representative of the airline they are to fly with. Here the emphasis should be on making this interaction as positive as possible.

Sometimes the check in desk actually works against this by being too high and imposing. To make it easier to interact the counter should be as inconspicuous as possible and if practical allow for some communication through body language. Reflective materials and hard edges contribute to the feeling that there is barrier between the staff and their passengers.

Colourful, bright, busy retail areas often accentuate the up, yang feeling and can help maintain a feeling of exhilaration. This works well when everything works smoothly but is not a relaxing environment if passengers are subjected to delays. In this situation a more yin, peaceful atmosphere would make it easier to relax and be patient.

Large airports have the problem of getting people to their boarding gates. Here from a feng shui perspective the situation is made worse by asking passengers to walk along long monotonous corridors. This actually makes the walk seem longer than it really is.

Here it is helpful to consider the different senses - touch, sound, visual, smell and taste - to see how a variety of sensual experiences can be created to make the journey more varied and interesting. For example different textures of floor covering change the touch sensation underfoot, different colours and imagery create a visual distraction, walking through areas playing different genres of music would be stimulating

All these examples combine to make the passenger feel he or she is making greater progress. Signage can also be employed to inform passengers on how far they are from their gate.

Departure lounges are commonly laid out as long straight lines of seating making it harder for families and groups to communicate. This is the place passengers want to unwind and relax before their flight. The linear structured layout makes the atmosphere of the room more yang and less relaxing.

Here a variety of seating options would make for a space where the passenger can find the seating that suits him or her best and make the area a better space to wait and relax. This could include breakfast style bars and stools, individual chairs, low seats and benches.


In my opinion the greatest lost opportunity to make an impression is when leaving the aircraft and walking through the arrivals process. Immigration, baggage claim and customs areas are often the least inspiring parts of any airport and yet are the travellers first introduction a new city and possibly new country.

It is rare to find anything that really signs the passenger to where they are. The criticism that arriving at one airport is like another and that globalisation has washed away cultural differences has made air travel less exciting and once the stimulus is taken away mundane corridors, bland immigrations posts, industrial style baggage claim halls and empty white customs room combine to make the passengers first experience of the terminal underwhelming and flat.

In these situation when things go wrong, lost baggage or delays, the customers response will be less forgiving. From a feng shui perspective the journey from airside to kerbside should be one that includes feelings of inspiration, excitement, interest, anticipation, enthusiasm and a sense of arrival.

For some it is a sense of coming home, for others a sense of beginning a new adventure. Following this emotional process the corridors could suggest the excitement to come so that arriving in the immigration hall is a cultural explosion of visual stimuli. Here expanding into a large high vaulted space would encourage passengers energy field to expand providing relief after being cramped in the confines of the aircraft and corridors.

Baggage claim halls can be a low point in the terminal experience. As people may be obliged to spend twenty minutes here why not make it pleasurable experience. Often these spaces have low ceilings and with people crowding around the belts becomes a cramped stressful experience. When people are exposed to compressed, intense chi they perceive it as stress and feel uncomfortable. Creating more entertaining area here where passengers can relax, have a drink, read the local newspapers, change money, get information, plan routes whilst they wait to be called for their baggage would make it easier for passengers to enjoy more positive emotions.

Natural light and views of the outside improve the atmosphere of these spaces and makes the overall feel more welcoming. Being able to see the process of baggage karts arriving from the aircraft and being loaded onto belts can also be reassuring as well as an interesting distraction for waiting passengers. Being able to see from the baggage hall to the arrivals hall means meeters and greeters and arriving passengers can make visual contact with each other. This takes some of the anxiety out of making the connection with people and opens up the atmosphere of the baggage hall making it feel less confined.


All public buildings need something special, the unusual feature that becomes a talking point, a focal point that makes the building memorable. In feng shui natural elements would be used to make this impression. Water features, flags in the wind, colourful banners, plants, works of art, blocks of colour are all part of the palette for making buildings special.


Simon's work with airport terminals includes Turino Airport and Airports throughout the Cape Verde islands, Tocumen Airport. He is currently working on projects for the Marco Polo airport Venice and Charles De Gaulle Paris. Simon Brown has given presentations at the Passenger Terminal Expo 2005 Koln-Messe and Paris Passenger Terminal Expo 2006.

For more information on Simon's feng shui airport work visist Airports Development Team International