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Chi War Coming

A tour of downtown's old and new developments from the Pavilion to the Rep reveals why we aren't having feng yet

By Michael Learmonth

WHEN THE RENOWNED architect I.M. Pei constructed a glass pyramid in the middle of a forest of skyscrapers in Hong Kong, the phone started ringing off the hook for feng shui practitioners. Soon, mirrors began to appear on neighboring facades. These were to deflect the negative energy, or "sha," generated by the pyramid.

Without the mirrors, the wood element of the skyscrapers conflicted with the fire element of Pei's pyramid.

Sidney Bennett believes that the success or failure of downtown San Jose could hinge on sensitivity to such Feng Shui principles.

A new city hall on East Santa Clara Street could face a "sha" challenge similar to the one Pei's pyramid posed to Hong Kong. The artist's rendition of the planned Methodist Church directly across the street portrays a sharp-edged building festooned with blue glass.

"It's very aggressive. It's not healthy," Bennett warns. "It's a poison arrow; they shouldn't be allowed to do it."

But if the church is built, a fountain positioned across the street in the path of the dominant angle, Bennett says, "could put out the fire."

Before city hall is built, Fifth Street between Santa Clara and San Fernando will be closed. This creates the opportunity for appealing open space, but also the opportunity for bad energy to flow straight down Fifth into the front doors of city hall.

"You will not want to have the door open to Fifth Street," Bennett advises. "It will create 'sha' energy."

Bennett is optimistic that the new city tower will balance nicely with the Medical-Dental Building, the lone "wood" element in the area. Perhaps the mayor or city manager will be able to look the Medical-Dental's rooftop statue of Hippocrates straight in the eye.

As Bennett drives through downtown San Jose, a few things jump out at her. "What is that?" she asks driving by the geometric San Jose Repertory Theater. "That is not very good feng shui."

Riding up the escalator of the Pavilion, Bennett marvels at the feng shui of the place. "These escalators at an angle to the corner draw you right in," she says.

She walks along the upper floor, looking at the empty windows. She walks down the steps on the south side. "Our chi is falling as we walk down," she says. But then Bennett says the chi of the place is rescued by the fountain below. "If it weren't for the fountain, I wouldn't want to come down here."

She tours the lower floor and comes up by Cirque du Soleil's giant Quidam statue. Bennett sees the headless man as a symbol for the Pavilion's economic woes.

"If we don't have a head, we don't have anything," she muses. "We wandered through here and found nothing."

Bennett posits a theory: "You're making a place that's calling people in," she says, "but you're not giving people what they want."

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From the Oct. 2-8, 1997 issue of Metro.

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