Big impressions

The Bjarke Ingels Group’s IQON tower in Quito, Ecuador, celebrates greenery.

The 32-storey IQON tower, completed at the end of 2022, features hundreds of individual pixel-like concrete blocks stacked on top of each other in a geometric design, leaving space for plants, and for residents to have their own private terraces. The pixels rotate around a curved corner, offering views of a neighbouring park, the city of Quito and the Pichincha volcano.

Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world, after La Paz in Bolivia, sitting high in the Andean mountains at an altitude of 2 850 metres above sea level (for reference, Johannesburg sits at 1 753 metres). Because of its location, and the fact that the airport was located in the city, Quito was a skyscraper-less city – until the airport was moved and height limits were revised from 15 to 40 storeys. In response to these changes, Uribe Schwarzkopf, an innovative development company based in Ecuador, commissioned the eponymous architectural firm of Design Indaba alum Bjarke Ingels, BIG, to design a mixed-use residential building.

The monumental building is intended to create a symbiosis between the built and natural environments of the mountainous Ecuadorian capital. As a company dedicated to both functionality and sustainability, BIG chose to celebrate trees and plants, integrating greenery wherever possible to maintain Ecuador’s status as the country with the most plant species per square metre in the world. The concrete pixels double as planters, with space for the roots of native tree species planted in each terrace protruding into the apartment below as a unique concrete sculpture. When each tree outgrows its space, it will be planted in the La Carolina park next door and replaced on the terrace with a smaller seedling, in this way creating a green cycle.

BIG employed local materials for construction and installed sustainable waste management practices in the building. IQON is the first mixed-use building in the city to receive a preliminary EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) certification.

IQON, which is not only BIG’s first building on the South American continent but also the tallest building in Quito, offers 215 apartments, offices, a business centre and a variety of amenities. BIG and Uribe Schwarzkopf's second project in Quito, EPIQ Residences, is slated for completion later in 2023.

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Photographs: BICUBIC.