Monday, August 01, 2005 | San Diego’s city government can use all the good vibes it can get.

Riding to the rescue this week is the Sixth Annual International Feng Shui Conference, 60 presenters strong, opening their three-day conference Friday at the San Diego Hilton on Mission Bay.

One presenter, Dr. David (Dak) Kopec, a San Diego environmental psychologist who has studied Feng Shui in China, agreed to visit the San Diego City Council Chamber last week, to see what might be done to bring new wisdom, harmony and progress to the business done there.

Feng Shui, in a nutshell (which would have its own Feng Shui), is arranging an environment to maximize the energy and potential of that environment. From its origins in ancient China, its root principles of “ch’i,” “gua” and “bagua” have become globally familiar, and attractive enough culturally to inspire international conferences.

“Ch’i” is energy, and energy is what needs arranging to make an environment more energetic and effective. A “gua” is an area within a space – a room, a home, an office, a council chamber – that corresponds to one of nine basic life situations. The guas are skills and knowledge, family, prosperity, fame, relationships, creativity, helpful people, career, and health.

A “bagua” is an eight-sided figure in which the nine guas are taken together and arranged in specific order, like boxes stacked three across and three high. Across the bottom are knowledge, career and helpful people (or “benefactors”); across the middle are family, health and creativity; on top are wealth, fame and relationships. Direction and orientation come into play also, but those are complexities best left to attending the weekend conference.

This is the diagnostic brought by Dak Kopec, a professor at the New School of Architecture and Design, to the San Diego City Council Chamber, on the 12th floor of City Hall.. Feng Shui practitioners have become particularly interested in applying their awareness to business and politics, which will be the subject of several presentations (including “Real Estate Secrets”) at the San Diego Hilton conference.

The council chamber, Dr. Kopec said, “has many features that compromise the overall Feng Shui of the room.”

It begins with the shape of the room.

“The shape of the room in the wealth, fame and relationship areas mimics a slightly bent semicircle,” he said. “On the knowledge, career and benefactors side, the room is shaped more like a trapezoid. This unique shaped room means that the council chamber has missing areas in the wealth, relationship, benefactors, and knowledge sections. Loosely translated, this means that there will be issues related to inadequate funds, public relations, civic and employee support, and not enough information for the most optimal responses.”

“Missing areas” refer to parts of the space that fall outside the bagua footprint.

“Because both the wealth and relationship areas have missing areas, they are out of balance with the fame section,” Kopec said. “This means that the fame section is volatile, i.e., a really good reputation or a really bad reputation.”

Council member seats are located in the wealth and fame areas, and also council member seats are situated at different levels, Kopec noted. The four council seats in the wealth area are slightly higher than the other seats, supporting a hierarchy. Additionally, the benefactors, career and knowledge areas are covered by a ceiling (created by the media room above) that is much lower than the rest of the chamber.

“This means that the knowledge, career and benefactors levels obtained in the chamber cannot reach the same level as the other areas: family, health, creativity, relationships, fame and wealth,” Kopec said.

Since the areas are interactive, the low ceiling also affects the four elevated council member chairs, meaning “those members seated in those four chairs are likely to act with reduced knowledge and little regard for helpful people,” Kopec said.

Those four seats also are influenced by a feature in the career area, attributed to wall angles that create “a slight point directed at the four uppermost council member seats. This means that whoever occupies these chairs will be likely to feel greater pressure to promote their own careers, and probably at the expense of others. The missing areas in both the benefactors and knowledge sections support this assertion.”

Finally, fixed seating for the public is in the family, health and creativity areas, indicating, Kopec said, “that people in the council chambers will not be as flexible in regarding issues of family, health care and identifying creative solutions as they could be.”

Solution: “Seats for the public should offer a slight swivel and/or reclining motion,” which will help reduce the rigidity in the areas.

“In Feng Shui, there are a host of ‘cures’ that can be used to solve problems,” said Kopec. “Common cures involve the placement of mirrors along walls where there are missing areas, the use of plants and greenery to soften the rigid nature of the room, and room screens to even out uneven walls.

Kopec suggested a redesign of the chamber into a symmetric floor plan, “either in the shape of an oval or rectangle, with ceiling height uniform throughout the chamber.

“If an audiovisual room is required to be in a superior position to the ground level, then it should be suspended over an adjacent room,” he said. “Council member seats should also be evenly distributed across the wealth, fame and relationship areas and arranged in a semicircle in order to maintain balance. The four highest seats should be situated in the center, as I would assume their contributions directly affect the image and reputation of San Diego. The current arrangement creates an imbalance in the wealth area, meaning that wealth is unstable (we have lots, or we have none).”

No cure, he said, should be considered that would detract from “an image of professionalism; such cures might detract from the mission or intent of the council members.”

Kopec, a member of the American Institute of Architecture and the Interior Design Education Council, is the author of the first textbook (published by Fairchild Publishing) on environmental psychology specifically for the design professional.

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at

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