Futuristic Feng Shui-Designed Malibu Mansion Once Asking $57 Million Heads to Auction - Kanebridge News
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Futuristic Feng Shui-Designed Malibu Mansion Once Asking $57 Million Heads to Auction

The glass, steel and concrete structure by contemporary architect Ed Niles incorporates elements of the traditional design philosophy and the symbolism of the lucky No. 8

By EVELYN BATTAGLIA
Sat, May 18, 2024 7:00amGrey Clock 4 min

A contemporary home designed with Feng Shui principles in Malibu that once asked $57.5 million will be auctioned in June.

The architectural home lies on the Pacific Coast Highway in Western Malibu, a surf spot known for its pristine beaches and celebrity owners. Concierge Auctions, which is handling the sale, expects bidding to open between $10 million and $19 million.

The long, narrow lot is about four-fifths of an acre and boasts 75 feet of private beachfront. Owner Wei-Tzuoh Chen, a California-based nephrologist, purchased the property in 2003 with his wife, Carrie Chen, for around $2.25 million. They originally intended to knock down the existing house and develop four condo units but then decided to keep the location for themselves as a vacation property.

Concierge Auctions

“I’ve lived in many beachfront houses in different parts of Southern California, but this is the finest sandy beach I’ve ever seen,” he said, distinguishing it from places where the water comes right up to the house during high tide.

The couple spent over six years building an 8,206-square-foot glass, steel and concrete residence with Malibu architect Ed Niles, who Chen said “spoke to his taste as a contemporary, not modern, architect.”

A native of Taiwan, Chen wanted to incorporate elements of Feng Shui into Niles’s signature futuristic design, inspired by the Guggenheim in New York City and the Broad in Los Angeles.

“I wanted a mini-museum in which to display my collection of Chinese antiques in a futuristic setting,” he said.

The property was previously listed in March 2023 at $57.5 million by Madison Hildebrand, president and CEO of the Malibu Life Team (and star of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles”), along with Jennifer Chrisman of Compass,  Wendy Wong of Treelane Realty Group and Katherine Quach of Treeline Realty & Investment. The agents are collaborating with Concierge Auctions, which will launch the auction on its online marketplace in mid-June. It is currently listed at $42 million.

Concierge Auctions

The residence juxtaposes organic with geometric shapes; curved and straight lines mingle inside and out.

As shown in an aerial photo, it consists of a series of circles, semi-circles, triangles and rectangles. “There are basically eight different-shaped structures in a configuration,” Chen said, explaining that the number eight symbolises good fortune in Chinese numerology.

Integrating Feng Shui elements was accomplished in numerous ways.

“Feng means ‘wind,’ and the idea is to have air flowing throughout,” Chen said. “Based on a survey of the site, Niles designed it so that when you open the door on the ocean side, the breeze will circulate into every area of the house.”

He added that the architect also designed the house around the sun’s movement, capturing the ever-changing light via over 45 custom skylights. “The architectural perspective of the house shifts every minute of the day.”

Feng Shui also refers to the flow of movement, which starts from the street-side security gate, where a short driveway descends to the house below. “The concept of the Chinese home is to be unassuming from the front and then to provide a wow factor when you walk inside,” he explained.

Steps lead down to the glass-walled entrance with a soaring steel-paned glass ceiling. This spills into a cavernous space framed by massive architectural concrete walls and a floating bridge overhead. Two expansive sets of built-in stairs lead in different directions—one connects with a floating staircase to an upper level. The other flows into the ground floor living area and kitchen, with views to the horizon on two sides. A wall of frameless glass doors opens onto the back patio and an outdoor dining area.

Two separate upper-level spaces—one rounded, the other a triangle—jut out over the patio, creating covered sitting areas below. The round space comprises the primary suite, featuring a wood-panelled sleeping area and a marble bathroom with a cylindrical Japanese stainless-steel tub overlooking the ocean. A 50-foot bridge and short flights of stairs lead to three more bedrooms with private decks.

“Every split level has its own wing with an en-suite bedroom, so they are private with no shared walls, and everyone gets to take advantage of the view,” Hildebrand said. “The guest house is separate with its own private outdoor space.”

Concierge Auctions

Two marine-coated red steel sculptures in the back play on the shapes and number themes. One is an immersive red triangular sculpture that doubles as an enclosure for a small dining table; the other is a humanistic red figure-eight piece. Chen confirmed that both are part of the sale, as is a larger-than-life green butterfly sculpture at the entrance.

Inlaid rectilinear stepping stones cut a diagonal across the lawn to the sandy beach, bordered by large rocks. Although it is technically open to the public, Hildebrand said it is not easily accessible or widely known.

Beyond the interiors, the outdoor entertaining spaces—counting an in-ground fire pit with stone crescent benches—can accommodate up to 100 guests. Six uncovered parking spaces are available in addition to a two-car garage.

“It also has a tide pool where you can see sea urchins, mussels and other marine life on the rocks in ankle-deep water at low tide, which is also very rare here,” Chen said. “That’s the reason I chose this lot over others. It’s such a unique location.”



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”