Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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CULTURED 301 INSIDE OUT Fernando Wong treats landscapes like interiors, creating environments that beg to be lived in. BY SIOBHAN MORRISSEY PORTRAIT BY RAFAEL BALCAZAR When Fernando Wong came to this country from his native Panama, he spoke little English and started at the bottom. One of his first jobs involved watering plants at the Bristol Tower penthouse in downtown Miami. In 2010, roughly a decade later, he shot into prominence as the landscape designer for the new owner of a $12.5 million condo—music phenom Pharrell Williams. A combination of talent, hard work and temperament is responsible for Wong's high visibility on the short list of people celebrities commission to design their gardens. These days, he's also a top choice of architects in search of collaborators for their landmark commercial projects. "The architecture is the main character," says Wong. "Landscape architecture becomes a supporting actor." Wong spent four years studying architecture at the Universidad de Panama followed by three years of interior design a term he, at one point, envisioned evolving into a career. He applies the skills he acquired in Panama in his current work so a lack of formal training was never a deterrent particularly after he spent four pivotal years working for landscape architect Robert Parsely at his firm, Geomantic Designs. Then, in 2005, he opened Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami Beach, followed by a second office in Palm Beach in 2012. "I could recognize his talent for design, his sense of proportion, his tendency to treat residential landscaping as a series of rooms, in keeping with his training as an interior designer," says Parsley. "He showed a particular aptitude for residential work and for how people live in their environment." Another of Wong's supporters is Nadim Ashi, the founder and CEO of the Miami-based firm Fort Capital Management. After seeing what Wong could do for his own home, Ashi brought him into his development projects, including The Surf Club Four Seasons Hotel and Residences designed by architect Richard Meier, with interiors by Joseph Dirand and Lee Mindel. When completed, the property will include a beach club, a 77-room hotel and 150 luxury residences. "What I really like the most about him is his sensitivity and understanding of tropical design," says Ashi. "He has a great curiosity, which makes him very well suited for collaboration." Wong's low key way of dealing with clients is strikingly different from his dramatic trajectory in the world of landscape architecture. "People know what they want—or at least they know what they want to feel like," he says, "and I'm honored to help get them there." "The architecture is the main character; landscape architecture becomes a supporting actor." —Fernando Wong

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