MAD Architects has unveiled designs for its first South American project. Located in Quito, Ecuador, the tower joins the ranks of prominent foreign architects working in the city. The Qondesa, as it will be called, will rise alongside Bjarke Ingels Group’s IQON and Tatiana Bilbao’s more vertically subdued Botániqo. The developer, Quito-based Uribe Schwarzkopf is also working with MVRDV, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, and Safdie Architects, among others.
Quito’s urban development has been rapid over the past two decades. The city’s airport moved away from its center while capital moved in, informal settlements have grown, and infrastructure has been built out. The first section of the city’s long-delayed metro system fully opened today, and while high-rise contemporary architecture has garnered plenty of attention, the capital’s historic center is well preserved.
MAD’s entrance to the city extends its curvilinear formwork to South America in what is to become the city’s tallest building. The mixed-use project will be located across from La Carolina Park, a 165-acre park in the Quito’s business district. This is in line with the project’s aim to not only formally serve residents, but to build on a site proximate to urban conveniences, including the metro. The building’s form will be modeled to ensure natural light and views of the park are not blocked in existing buildings.
The tower riffs off themes common in MAD’s work, including connections to nature, and in this case, nods to local architectural history. Qondesa’s stone-colored facade was inspired by Quito’s historic volcanic stone buildings. According to the firm, the vertical lines “emulate twisting vines weaving around the building,” which also serve as the only break from an otherwise all-glazed facade. The facade will be completed with balconies of native vegetation plantings that will make for a more colorful exterior, albeit in a rather non-native way.
While MAD is not new to high-rise projects, best known in Mississauga, Ontario; Qondesa augments its twisting form through an exoskeleton rather than simply the structure itself. Similarly, taking inspiration from the local environment through the exterior material application is a departure from the more literal, topographical form extruded in Huangshan Mountain Village. Qondesa seems to combine these traits with the firm’s ongoing work in Denver, which is being built with a planted exterior, albeit against an all-glass facade. Nonetheless, the project molds past motifs in MAD’s work in a way that may be best at home in the South American capital.
In a press release, the firm described Qondesa as “a landmark to the city’s skyline.” They added: “This important urban contribution is part of the new urban plan for Quito, which aims to create a more environmentally friendly city with better commuting options and an overall higher quality of life for its inhabitants.”