The modern glass palace that is the new Swiss Stock Exchange has not been quite the glittering success expected, Feng Shui enthusiast and interior decorator Yocasta Fareri, brought the ancient Chinese art to their rescue.After the Basle, Geneva and Zurich stock exchanges merged in 1992, 120 employees were relocated to the new building in Zurich. It was a mammoth undertaking – Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was the Swiss Stock Exchange. It took nearly a decade for the Zurich city authorities just to grant permission for the construction of the 200 million Swiss franc structure.
The final result is a beautifully designed building, equipped with the finest state-of-the-art technology. The street level passages, encased in glass panels, reveal a generous glass skylight dome. This glass rotunda allows the light to penetrate the public spaces for the visitor to see and feel the openness – akin to being in a Roman-style forum. Tucked away on the fifth floor, unbeknown to many people, are 19 luxurious residential apartments with panoramic views of what used to be the botanical gardens.
Unfortunately, the empty commercial shop spaces in the upper and lower lobbies have diminished the building’s prestige. Since the Exchange opened six years ago, at least half of the commercial space for rent has remained unoccupied. The only restaurant which opened there promptly went out of business and closed – not to mention the millions of francs being lost in uncollected revenue.
Feeling The Vibes
What has happened? ‘Bad vibes’… for lack of a better word. The vacuum one experiences in the lobby seems to deflect the kind of tenants they would prefer, attracting instead an array of marginal street people, entering at will to lie on the marble floor, making funny faces at the visitors. This was my personal experience when I was there.
Recognising that something was ‘not quite right’ in the building’s lobby, I approached Antoinette Hunziker, Head of Management Services at the Exchange, to suggest that perhaps feng shui changes should be considered as a potential solution to these problems. After some discussions, the conclusion was reached that a change must be made. Dr. Richard Meier, Delegate for International Affairs and Joseph Hofer, the architect, as well as Ms Hunziker were quite familiar with this ancient practice, used to induce harmony and well-being at home or work. I offered to introduce them to a highly respected feng shui consultant from Zurich, and they welcomed the idea.
“It was a mammoth undertaking – Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was the Swiss Stock Exchange”
East Meets West
I first became fascinated with feng shui in 1980 while living in Hong Kong. As an interior decorator, after learning about the philosophy of this ancient Chinese wisdom, I realised that for my clients using it would be a true advantage.
In New York, I had the good fortune to contact Sarah Rossbach, who is now internationally recognised as one of the most respected and prolific writers on the subject of feng shui. Later in London I found quite a rich pool of feng shui experts from all over Asia, whom I always consulted for whatever type of project I was designing.
Now I am living and working in Switzerland where feng shui is not as widely known as in New York or London. Interestingly, since the completion of the Swiss Stock Exchange in 1988, feng shui is fast becoming a more common practice with Swiss architects and interior designers, who regularly attend feng shui seminars to familiarise themselves with this practice, which is increasingly in demand by clients.
- The energy enters the building by the street level and lower floor entrances and immediately escapes down the escalators to the lower floor. Thus, the energy is being totally lost to the premises. What is even worse, is that the rest of the energy then goes right out through the glass ceiling, like a chimney. The result is that upon entering the building most people immediately feel uncomfortable. Therefore, the shops cannot attract people to feed the positive ch’i energy, and when there’s no ch’i, one simply cannot survive.
- There is an over abundance of lifeless, inanimate materials used in the construction, such as granite, metals, glass and stone textures. Without the benefit of any living materials for balance (like plants, etc), the disparity wreaks havoc with the balance of the building.
- By the cross gates facing the four compass directions, the carved stones from the four corners of the world attract even more yang energy. Symbolically, this means that you can walk the world with five steps. Yet, another yang element.
- The lower lobby and garage areas attract an unsavoury element. So much so, that many women, when inside, feel very unsafe – and rightly so – as some physical attacks have taken place there!
- Finally, it’s important to bear in mind that the Exchange’s line of work (finance) is traditionally considered yang.
The following positive feng shui solutions were proposed:
- To help stimulate and keep the ch’i in, as well as help disperse it so that it flows normally, the lobby centre should have a large oasis with tall (at least over six feet tall) lush green plants with large rounded leaves. Ornamental fig trees would beparticularly beneficial because these plants are especially good to use when the energy needs to be circulated clockwise.
- It is imperative to introduce warm yin colours, such as ochre, yellow, sand, orange and terracotta. Plus some water elements are needed throughout the lobby in the form of 12 small basins (three basins placed at each of the four main compass directions – North, South, East, West). The water should flow from the basins to the centre of the lobby, tricking down slowly and quietly via tiny canals, directed towards the centre of the oasis. In this particular application, it is not recommended to have noisy water gushing out or loud fountains.
- To keep in the energy, cotton canvas boat sails should be hung from the glass skylight.
It may also be useful to place a sound-making mechanical instrument. For example, a large hourly chiming clock. This element will help stimulate the ch’i energy again and also hold it inside the space.
Looking To The Future
The solutions Marc Häberlin is proposing have yet to be implemented. Chances are that, unless all these changes are made at some point, the Exchange’s lobby will have little hope of attracting permanent commercial tenants, who will bring an air of prosperity and harmony to such a beautiful structure.
However, when so much of mainstream Switzerland has begun to admit to being interested and to using the services of feng shui experts, one can only conclude that feng shui is the wave of the future here. And not a moment too soon!