Levitating at 10,000 feet (2,850 meters) above sea level, secluded under an equatorial sky and immured by Alexander von Humboldt’s famous “Avenue of the Volcanoes”, San Francisco de Quito is an urban ensemble with a unique and highly animate morphology that has resulted from a time-honored relationship between multiple forms of colonization and its incredibly robust topography. Driven by the pervasive presence of the mountains, the most salient forms of urbanism that have shaped the city have predominantly acknowledged Quito’s unique sectional figure and effectively operated in between its paradoxical condition as established metropolis and new frontier. Caught within this framework, processes of infilling, leveling, bridging, and containing, among others, have been the key instruments in establishing flexible and open-ended patterns of colonization that can negotiate between the fixed prescriptions of settlement and the instability of this ground. This has allowed for dynamic forms of exchange between topology and typology, and more importantly, recognized the significant role of a highly malleable section and its inherent potential to provide a flexible, yet cohesive, urban framework: an abstract machine that can effectively adapt to the extreme vulnerability of the contour and effectively transition from the domestic scale of the clasped urban block to the unbound scale of the open territory.
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