Mexico City Historic Center
Seven centuries of Mexican history are recorded 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 14th-century Aztec city, while the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which WMF helped restore, contains some of Mexico’s finest murals from the early 20th century, including one of the most important works of 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 and many parts of the city had become overcrowded, plagued with infrastructure and pollution problems. In the Centro Histórico, much of the architecture fell into disrepair and many of the buildings were abandoned. The Fundación Centro Histórico was established by Carlos Slim in 2000 with the goal of restoring and reusing the historic architecture and urban monuments of the historic center of Mexico City.
How We Helped
WMF has been working with the Fundación Centro Histórico since 2004. The Foundation was established to preserve historic architecture and revitalize the historic core of Mexico City through sustainable efforts that encourage economic growth and community development.
A 2007 grant from WMF and American Express is helping the Fundación Centro Histórico revitalize the area through an integrated program of historic preservation, sustainable tourism management, and visitor education.
A key component of the project is adapting the remnants of the Rule Building (a Neoclassical, early-20th-century movie palace badly damaged in the 1985 earthquake) and open space (formerly occupied by the cloister of San Francisco) for use as a visitor’s center and public square. This will serve as a meeting place, a starting point for tourists, and an education and interpretation center for visitors and residents alike.
Why It Matters
The grant is supporting high-tech educational content. The visitor’s center will incorporate natural light and energy-efficient technologies in its design, and use a comprehensive database of historic resources being compiled by WMF 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.
This project can serve as a model for the sustainable rehabilitation of other historic city centers in Mexico.