Tag Archives: BUDDHISM


April 19, 2019

14th Shamarpa Reliquary Building, Natural Bridge, Virginia, by Poon Design (photo by Mark Ballogg)

Feng Shui: Some call it philosophy. Some call it art or science. And some call it superstition.

Crystals: Similar thing. Like horoscopes and fortune telling, some call the supposed energy from a rock either science or fantasy.

Architecturally, Feng Shui is often referred to as the art of placement. And the use of crystals, gemstones and geodes in architectural design can contribute in various ways to the experience of a room. For both Feng Shui and crystals, I call it the art of intention.

Citrine Geode, sold at Mystic Journey Crystals, Venice, California (photo from mysticjourneycrystals.com)
Escena Garden Residence, Palm Springs, California, by Poon Design (photo by Lance Gerber)

A Chinese philosophy dating back to 4000 BC, Feng Shui explores an enigmatic life force called Chi, and how it can bring harmony to one’s existence. With harmony and balance, one is then supported to achieve all that one wishes for, from love to wealth, from fame to health. (Yes, in Star Wars, Chi is simply called “The Force.”)

Though the study of Feng Shui includes numerology, symbolism, and blessing ceremonies—just to name a few—most people know primarily of Feng Shui’s influence on the physical world, mostly interior design. Through the careful placement of furniture, curated pieces of décor, or the arrangement of walls, doors, windows and mirrors—the Chi can flourish, and in turn, dissipate negative energy.

Handful of precious gems: Bloodstone, White Quartz, Garnet, Flourite, and Pyrite (photo by Anthony Poon)

In similar ways, some believe that certain types of colorful crystals deliver attributes that will benefit your existence. For example, Amethyst provides relaxation, whereas Aventurine offers confidence. Citrine clears negative energy, and Rose Quartz delivers love—perhaps. Clients of architecture purchase crystals of all sizes, from preciously tiny gems that gently rests in one’s palm, to a feature stone gracing an office lobby.

White Quartz, sold at Mystic Journey Crystals, Venice, California (photo from mysticjourneycrystals.com)

Akin to the long history of Feng Shui, stories of crystals date back to the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Feng Shui and crystals have much in common in the form of healing. Through a Feng Shui reading of a house, I found problem areas, such as an incorrectly located back door that will drain the Chi from an important corner of the home: the marriage area. The Chinese philosophy then offers “cures” for the compromised architectural design, such as suspending a crystal in the troubled area, which will bring positive energy. Feng Shui goes further: The length of the string that suspends needs to be in a multiple of five or nine, as in 5, 10 or 18 inches. Lucky numbers.

Buddhist Temple, Natural Bridge, Virginia, by Poon Design (photo by Mark Ballogg)

As a certified Feng Shui professional and a member of the International Feng Shui Guild, I do realize how skeptics would say all this is hocus-pocus, an absurd set of rules and beliefs. Like with crystals, how Bloodstone will bring vitality, and Pyrite will result in wealth.

Brazilian blue marble at my house, Roberto Residence, Bel Air, California (photo by Anthony Poon)

But if all this is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, nothing more than hippie astrology, why do so many people believe in such supernatural forces? And why does it actually seem to work?

It is simply because of one thing: intention. You could also call it faith. If we believe that a crystal or a wind chime will bring us prosperity, then perhaps the intention is enough. Is it so different than the baseball player who has his lucky glove? Or perhaps, a beautiful crystal glowing with rainbow beams of light simply makes us smile. And it is this smile that makes our day a good one.


July 20, 2015

Buddhist Temple by Poon Design

In its purest form, architecture is shelter. Architecture protects us from many things. It shelters us from the elements, like soaking rain or blistering sun. Architecture also defends—from trespassers or the relentless noise of the city.

But architecture is more than a roof over your head, more than a wall against intruders. Architecture is more than psychological armor, and more than a physical fortress. Architecture is much more than something that guards us from the negative.

In fact, architecture is a container of the positive. As a place of gathering, architecture is a vessel of experiences and events, whether for a family in a house, students in a school, or employees at a company.

Architecture is a place to rest. To learn. To grow. To connect. Architecture is also a place to retreat.

Assembly Building by Poon Design
Assembly Building by Poon Design

For a 45-acre Buddhist retreat in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia, Poon Design created three buildings, with more to come. Our buildings were designed with no agendas to win national design awards or garnish attention from the press, as did the ambitious yet curious museum in a nearby town. For Poon Design’s work with the Buddhists, I had no political thoughts to advance my career. I had no proclamations of launching a new style of design. Poon Design simply sought to create vessels for gathering.

Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia, by Randall Stout Architects (photo by skyscrapercity.com)
Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia, by Randall Stout Architects (photo from skyscrapercity.com)

To begin with, I was blessed to be selected as the personal architect to Shamar Rinpoche (1952-2014) the 14th Shamarpa and the Red Hat Lama of Tibet, one of the most central figures of Buddhism, on par with the Dalai Lama. It isn’t every day one works personally with a high Tibetan lama descended from a line of holy men going back to the 13th Century.

Being in Rinpoche’s enlightened presence intimated to me that the architecture should plainly defer. Over six years with this Buddhist foundation, Poon Design created places to simply rest, learn, grow, and connect. We designed a temple, a meditation retreat house, and an assembly building.

Meditation Retreat House by Poon Design
Meditation Retreat House by Poon Design

By being of modest design, our architecture acknowledges Buddhists teachings. Poon Design starts with vernacular language, for example a wood barn and a gable roof. When Googling “vernacular,” one finds the definition as “the language spoken by the ordinary people in a particular region,” and “architecture concerned with domestic and functional rather than monumental buildings.”

So there it is: architecture that is intentionally non-monumental. The beauty of the ordinary.

Buddhist Temple by Poon Design, blessing ceremony with Shamar Rinpoche (photo by Christine Fang)
Buddhist Temple by Poon Design, blessing ceremony with Shamar Rinpoche (photo by Christine Fang)

With the Buddhist temple, we subscribe to the vernacular–both in construction method and the stylistically neutral design. This pavilion, atop a 150-foot hill, is hand-crafted by community labor through authentic heavy timber construction methods. This methodology transforms tree trunks into extraordinary structures, without modern techniques of fabrication. The laborious carpentry from local woodworking artisans features joinery that uses scribed carpentry and pegged mortise-and-tenon connections.

The evolving master plan explores other possibilities: visitor center, museum, dormitory, cabins, administration building, and so on. When all said and done, the structures will be indeed shelter. And yes, the structures will provide a roof over one’s head. But all these projects, past and future, capture two essential aspects of architecture: to accommodate and to defer. A lesson in design, and sometimes, in life as well.

© Poon Design Inc.