In the course of our daily reporting, we often uncover unusual projects, places, or connections that don't make the final cut. Instead of keeping it to ourselves, we're pleased to share our weekly Architrivia.

In addition to modern monuments of glass and steel like the Bank of China complex and Two International Finance Centre, Hong Kong's eclectic skyline is comprised of countless apartment blocks that contain some of the smallest living spaces in the world. While many of these highrises capitalize on constrained and tight property lines by climbing as high as possible, creating super-slim monoliths, others have curiously conspicuous design features. If you start examining the skyline more closely, you'll notice many of these apartment blocks are punctured with gaping holes. And the reason for that is rooted in the Chinese philosophical system of feng shui.

The Arch and The Harbourside developments feature mid-air open holes, image by Flickr user See-ming Lee via Creative Commons

The art of feng shui aims to connect and harmonize humans with their environment. This has historically been accomplished through design and architecture; something as seemingly insignificant as the orientation of a building has huge implications in the practice of feng shui. How to arrange and articulate buildings to harness good fortune and positive energy is something architects working in Hong Kong will know all about. Mao Zedong's state-imposed Cultural Revolution would suppress the philosophy in mainland China, but its remnants still live large in Hong Kong.

Repulse Bay in Hong Kong, image by Flickr user ThisParticularGreg via Creative Commons

So why the holes? At passing glance, the assumption would be that these giant voids in the sky are simply an aesthetic choice. But the real reason is ancient mythology. Because feng shui focuses on placing a building within an environment in an auspicious way, Hong Kong's mountains and water provide a perfect platform for that concept to be fully exploited. According to legend, dragons residing in the mountains are gifted with positive energy. Just as the people of Hong Kong clog the streets and trains for their commute, these mythical creatures would travel from the mountains to the sea every day and back to their hilly homes at night.

The Bank of China Tower (left) and the HSBC Building (right), image by Flickr user Kirill ΞΚ Voloshin via Creative Commons

Practitioners believe the proliferation of highrise building clusters has disrupted this natural flow of energy, so in response, architects have carved out holes in the elevations to accommodate the omnipresent dragons. Residences closest to the apertures are typically among the most expensive. So while some will dismiss feng shui as superstitious drivel, some of the world's most famous architects have embraced the practice. Foster + Partners' HSBC Building installed two cannon-shaped maintenance cranes on the roof, both of which are pointed at the Bank of China Building, which at the time of completion received major backlash for its harsh edges and knife-like demeanor. The installation atop the HSBC Building functions to defuse the resultant negative energy. 

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