QUITO (AFP) – Not far from Ecuador’s capital, tourists flock to a line etched in the ground and straddle it so they’ve got one foot on either side of the equator.
A 30 meter (100 foot) obelisk marks the spot. Now, the provincial governor, thinking much bigger and grander, wants to build a mile-high (1.6 kilometers) skyscraper there.
Besides drawing more visitors to what would be the world’s tallest building, the structure would honor the Quitu-Cara, an indigenous culture credited with being the first to define the line marking the planet’s waistband, said deputy governor Marcela Costales.
Promotors say the building would cost $200 million to erect. Its main backer is Gustavo Baroja, governor of Pichincha province, which includes Quito.
Contacts have been established with potential investors in the United States and Europe, and a delegation from Qatar that’s interested in the tower has visited Ecuador, Costales said.
The obelisk now stands at a site called Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, or Half-the-World City, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Quito. The spot draws about 900,000 visitors a year.
The mile-high structure would be called the Tower of the Sun and could draw three times that number, Baroja said.
The obelisk was built in 1979 to honor French expeditions dating back to 1736 and late in that century to study the size and shape of the Earth.
That monument was a product of its time “but in the new millennium, with mankind’s awakening, this zeal to find new energies, Half-the-World City has a greater value,” Costales said.
“We want it to be a global icon reflecting what we are,” said Baroja.
Currently the world’s tallest building is Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which rises 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) high.
A first draft model of the proposed new building more than twice that height has been done by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly.
It is not without critics.
Alberto Andino, president of the Pichincha Architectural Association, said the idea smacks of what he called Dubai-style runaway urban development at the expense of respect for nature.