Vertical living : Tall buildings by renowned architects will transform Quito's skyline.

The Second-Highest capital city in the world unfurls along a long, narrow plateau in the Andes beneath snow capped volcanoes.

But the source of Quito's beauty is a headache for urban planners : space for new homes in Ecuador's capital is limited. So the city is growing upwards.

In 2023, two new sky-scrappers will join the high-rise structures that are already transforming Quito's skyline. A building designed by Bjarke Ingels Group [BIG], a trendy architecture firm, will rise 100 metres above central Quito.

Qanvas, 24-storey tower in the same neighborhood, will also be finished. They follow the opening in 2022 of IQON, BIG'S first skyscraper in Quito, and the city's tallest building.

High-rise buildings are a novelty in Quito. Until IQON was built, a soaring 19th-century basilica dominated the skyline.

The relocation of the airport outside the city in 2013 allowed loftier structures to be erected. New regulations introduced in 2016 say that if a project is close to a stop on the new metro line, due to open soon, developers can double the building's height - as long as it complies with green-building rules.

The idea is to shape the city around these public transport hubs. Joseph Schwarzkopf, boss of Uribe Schwarzkopf, the property developer which commissioned ten renowned architects to build high-rise around Quito, wants to see a ''15-minute-city'', a place where citizens can work, eat and socialize within 15-minutes of their home.

This would cut out polluting car journeys and improve the quality of life.

Tree-covered buildings for ''vertical living'' are going up in the cities around the world, from Tirana, Albania's capital, to Huanggang in China's Hubei province. But the concentration of prestigious architects with work in Ecuador's capital stands out.

They include Moshe Safdie, the mastermind behind Singapore's jungly airport, and Jean Nouvel, a Pritzker prizewinning architect from France.

Some Quitenos view this with dismay, concerned over whom these flashy apartments will serve. One local architect worries that private developers, rather than city-planners, are moulding Quito.

Similar concerns have arisen elsewhere.Gonzalo Diez, whose firm designed Qanvas, says it is natural as cities evolve. In the 1970s and 1980s architects turned Quito's low-rise residential buildings into multi -storey structures, he says.

''We're doing the same thing they did ...... just on a different scale.''

The World Students Society thanks Claire Mcque Assistant editor culture and social-media editor, The Economist.


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