Sara Wong was already well known as an artist when she decided to pursue a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at the University of Hong Kong in 1997. It turned out to be less of a detour than a parallel route along the same creative journey.
“At that time I had been doing work which was very much related to spatial thinking, concepts about space, installation works,” she recalls. “So naturally I was thinking I would like to study on something which would provide me more ways to think about space and our surrounding environment. I felt that if I wanted to pursue some larger scale works, that would provide me with another perspective.”
Wong launched her career as an artist in the early 1990s, and much of her early work had an architectural sensibility. Site-Seeing (1996) was a large installation made with wood panels recovered from construction hoardings, complete with the tattered remnants of the advertisements and notices that had been pasted on them. In City Monument/Monument City (1998), she silkscreened a city map on moving steel platforms. She was also one of the founders of Para Site, Hong Kong’s first artist-run space, which opened in 1996.
Wong was teaching drawing to architecture students at HKU when she heard about the university’s new landscape architecture programme. At the time, Hong Kong’s art scene was not nearly as large or vibrant as it is today, so she thought the course would provide a kind of safety net for her career. She began working in the field after she finished her studies while also maintaining her artistic practice.
“I kept my personal work and my practice in the built environment going in parallel,” she recalls. “But it did influence me bit by bit in my artistic work, like in my interest in observing the city.” In several works, she drew a straight line on a map and documented her efforts to follow it, an experiment she conducted in both Hong Kong and New York.
In the meantime, Wong also build up her landscape architectural practice, something she continues to this day. One of her most recent projects involves designing a low-impact campground that would be built on a former landfill in Tseung Kwan O. She has also been teaching landscape architecture at the Vocational Training Council and working as a curator for Oi!, a government-run art space housed in a historic former yacht club in North Point.
Wong says she doesn’t draw firm lines between her work as an artist, curator and landscape architect. “I always try to bring these three together as one practice,” she says. “I work on a diversity of platforms, that’s all. I feel that my knowledge, background and experience influence all the different types of projects I’m involved it. You look at the city as a framework for everyday living, whether it’s from an artist’s perspective or as someone who practices as an urban researcher or a landscape architecture. They’re all interrelated.”