Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso
2016 World Monuments Watch
The Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, currently a museum in the Cuauhtemoc borough of Mexico City, preserves four centuries of history. Its origins as a Jesuit seminary date back to the mid-sixteenth century. The baroque building standing at the site was built at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and is one of the most distinguished examples of civic architecture in New Spain. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits by King Charles III in 1767 the building served a number of functions, until in 1867 it became Mexico’s first National Preparatory School, where many of the country’s intellectuals, artists, and entrepreneurs were educated. In the 1920s, the school became the cradle of the Mexican muralist movement. Its walls featured the first murals by such artists as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others.
After the school closed in 1978, the building sat abandoned until a 1992 intervention by architect Ricardo Legorreta transformed it into a museum and cultural center. The Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso now regularly organizes performances, festivals, public lectures, and performing arts events, in addition to temporary exhibitions and related programs.
Many buildings in the historic center of Mexico City face challenges and San Ildefonso is no exception, as it struggles with structural problems resulting from the regular sinking process caused by the geological characteristics of the terrain. Refurbished over two decades ago, the building suffers from outdated lighting and climate control systems that hinder its function as a world-class exhibition space. Inclusion on the 2016 World Monuments Watch draws attention of the need to improve structural and environmental systems in the building to assure its continuing enjoyment by visitors.
Watch Day, held on November 5, 2016 included a wide variety of activities that showcased the multidisciplinary approach of the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso. A round table discussion for adults discussed sustainable heritage, while heritage garden workshops were held for families with kids. The “Discovering San Ildefonso Rally” invited visitors 14 and older to dress up as characters represented in the museum’s murals. Participants had the opportunity to understand and appreciate the building’s social and cultural values, beyond its function as a museum.