Mexico City Historic Center
Seven centuries of Mexican history are reflected in the architectural landscape of the Centro Histórico, or Historic Center, of Mexico City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Zócalo, a large urban plaza near the eastern edge of the district, was part of the fourteenth-century Aztec city, while the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which we helped restore, has some of Mexico’s finest murals from the early twentieth century, including one of the most important works by Diego Rivera. The majority of buildings in the Centro Histórico were constructed during the 300 years when Mexico was under Spanish rule.
By the 1980s, the population of Mexico City had grown to over 16 million. Many parts of the city were overcrowded and plagued with infrastructure and pollution problems. Much of the architecture in the Centro Histórico fell into disrepair and the buildings abandoned. Carlos Slim established the Fundación Centro Histórico in 2000 with the goal of preserving historic architecture and revitalizing the historic core of Mexico City through sustainable efforts that encourage economic growth and community development. We have worked with the Fundación Centro Histórico since 2004.
A revitalization effort through an integrated program of historic preservation, sustainable tourism management, and visitor education
A 2007 grant from WMF and American Express helped Fundación Centro Histórico’s revitalization efforts through an integrated program of historic preservation, sustainable tourism management, and visitor education. Remnants of the Rule Building, a neoclassical, early-twentieth-century movie palace which was badly damaged in the 1985 earthquake, as well as an open space formerly occupied by the cloister of San Francisco, are currently being adapted for use as a visitor’s center and public square. They will serve as a meeting place, starting point, and education and interpretation center for visitors and residents alike.
The visitor’s center will incorporate natural light and energy-efficient technologies in its design. We compiled a comprehensive database of historic resources for interactive displays, virtual tours, and physical models that will inform visitors about the city’s historic sites, architectural history, environmental issues, and urban green spaces.