Neighborhoods in heritage buildings

Neighborhoods in heritage buildings

The neighborhoods are still here. Although demographic and real estate growth has relegated them to our imagination, they continue to be part of our daily lives. At least in the central neighborhoods of Mexico City.

Some have been revalued as part of the gentrification process, but the pre-established concept that still prevails over them tends to minimize their artistic, social and historical importance in the growth of the Mexican capital. This undervaluation is related to its historical inhabitants, from the labor sector, who have not had the reins of the narrative of what is, or is not, valuable in the architectural and cultural field in general.

We frequently find the subject of housing approached from the physical, social, cultural and urban aspects, but not from the architectural. The description of the spaces, and their functions, of upper-class housing is common, separating the popular sector from the study, which is clearly also part of our history.

If a property classified as artistic has been restored or rehabilitated, the capital usually comes from private pockets. It is easy to realize that those who are in better conditions are those who belonged, or still belong, to the upper class, or else to the ecclesiastical and government classes. It is also these that receive the most attention in restoration programs. However, due to their artistic or historical value, more social projects should be carried out in popular housing buildings classified as heritage. We have the enormous task of raising awareness in our environment about what these monuments represent. Only in this way can society become an observer and active protector of our heritage.

One of the most representative neighborhoods of the city and in which we can find neighborhoods in listed buildings is the Guerrero neighborhood (la warrior pa' los cuates). 40% of its surface corresponded to this type of housing. The earthquake that shook Mexico City in 1985 damaged many of these and was the reason for partial or total demolitions, sometimes under the pretext of structural damage and on other occasions due to the poor conditions in which they were found. These actions gave way to new constructions that sought to cover housing needs, but did not have the architectural value of the houses they replaced. Many of these condominiums served the developers more than their users. They minimally or not at all fulfill the desired social and urban function.

Sociologist Christian Topalov, in Capitalist Urbanization, says: “The city is the result of the social division of labor and a developed form of cooperation between production units. It concentrates the general conditions of capitalist production (conditions of the production and circulation of capital and the production of labor power) and is the result of the spatial system of the processes of production, circulation, consumption, processes that have physical supports, that is, real estate”. For this reason, the rehabilitation of a property should contemplate the solution of social problems oriented to specific groups, increasing its added value and that of the neighborhood, strengthening the cultural heritage; while having as its main goal the solution to homelessness.

The abandonment and lack of maintenance affects not only the inhabitants of these properties, but the neighborhood as a whole and the city as a whole. The restoration of popular housing in heritage buildings must be based on the permanence of the population that resides in said buildings, raising their quality of life. Resulting in the valorization and rooting towards the neighborhood.