Danish architecture studio BIG has completed their first project in South America, adding a dramatic pixelated flair to Ecuador’s capital city skyline. At 436 feet tall, the IQON residential and commercial structure (built for developer Uribe Schwarzkopf) is now the tallest building in Quito. Its rippling exterior of offset balconies doubles as a piece of art for the rapidly changing city.

“We’ve tried to take all the iconic qualities of Quito – such as the enjoyment of living in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in a city on the equator where the seasons are perfect for both human and plant life – and bring that experience into the vertical dimension,” says BIG’s founder Bjarke Ingels. “IQON is an entire vertical community of individual homes; an extension of La Carolina Park that now climbs all the way up to the rooftop.”

BIG approached the design in characteristically bold fashion. “IQON’s architectural identity is defined by its ‘stripped back’ facade.” the BIG website says. “The raw, exposed concrete simultaneously functions as the building’s structure. Individual ‘pixels’ are stacked 32 floors high and rotated to provide the best possible views while simultaneously creating terraces for the apartments.”

The building consists of 220 residential apartment units ranging from one to three bedrooms in size. Some apartments even have panoramic views of the city and the nearby Pichincha volcano. “Each apartment floor features through-units – apartments that have terraces on both the north and south facades – which not only allows for views across the entire city, but also offers the opportunity for cross ventilation and a sense of openness, ” explains BIG partner Thomas Christofferson.

The country’s rich biodiversity is fully embraced in the IQON plan. “Celebrating native trees and plants, the building integrates greenery wherever possible to take advantage of Ecuador’s temperate climate and ecology – the country with the most plant species per square meter in the world,” the company website says. Trees and shrubs adorn each balcony, and the ground floor features a public vegetable garden.

The building’s ecosystem is intentionally circular. As the company explains, “The building also acts as an urban tree farm; once the vegetation planted on the terraces outgrows its planter, it can be replanted in parks all over the city. In this way, the building becomes part of a green cycle – from park to building, and back to park.”

The lower floors incorporate room for five retail shops and 36 commercial offices, and the inside of the ground floor offers a soft contrast to the building’s sharp-angled exterior. “The ground floor plaza includes generous public spaces, retail units, and public art. This central plaza functions as a new east-west pathway, connecting the park to the rest of the neighborhood,” the BIG website says. “Upon entering the lobby, the material palette transitions from the raw, pared-back exterior to a more refined aesthetic; marble stone pavers complement the custom millwork reception desk, and concrete touchpoints nod to the facade. Deep emerald green tones are utilized on the ceiling tiles, mailboxes, and through to the elevator lobby – an area located beyond a blackened-steel portal.”

IQON also boasts a rooftop pool and terrace, sports and spa facilities, a music room, and a bowling alley.

“IQON…represent[s] the ongoing transformation of Quito into a cornerstone of architecture, design, and innovation,” said Uribe Schwarzkopf’s co-founder Tommy Schwarzkopf. “As the first residents move in and businesses begin to take space in the building, we are looking forward to seeing [it] come to life and become part of the fabric of the city.”