Urban heritage and local identities in Mexico City

Muirhead 112
Tuesday 7 February 2017 (17:30-18:30)

Dr Gabriela Lee, Ibero-American University, Mexico City

Urban heritage forms the basic structure of contemporary cities, yet it receives a differential treatment, since historic centers are generally favored over local landmarks. In Mexico, this difference in appraisal is particularly visible in towns which were absorbed by Mexico City’s expansion during the past 50 years, as they are now surrounded by populous neighborhoods on the edge of the city.

An example of these are the colonial towns of Santa Isabel Tola, Cuautepec, and Ticoman, which were studied from a multidisciplinary perspective to see whether officially listed landmarks actually remain significant for these communities’ perception of their spatial and social environment.  Heritage is a dynamic and evolving concept, as is the construction of local identities, their connection to the landscape and to those elements which are significant as depositaries of collective identity. Six components are proposed to build a larger definition of urban heritage, and include historic, territorial, environmental, landscape, cultural and urban dimensions. The definition compounds elements which promote collective heritage appropriation, adding historic, symbolic, cultural, environmental, identity, functional and social values, leading to an integral view of heritage which should play an essential role in city planning. Research results go beyond the issue of heritage conservation and outline a set of proposals which should be central to urban planning.

Dr Gabriela Lee (Ibero-American University, Mexico City) is visiting the University of Birmingham as part of a UK-Mexico Visiting Chair initiative. The UK-MX Chair aims to encourage research collaboration and strengthen relations between HEIs in Mexico and the UK.

Dr Lee specialises in Architecture, Urban Development, Urban History and Heritage Conservation. She is the coordinator of the Masters programme for Urban Development, and full time academic of the Department of Architecture, Universidad Ibero-Americana, Mexico City. Since 1992, Dr Lee has taught in the fields of architecture, restoration and urban regeneration, history (cities), and urban development. Professional experience includes architecture offices in Mexico City and Brussels, Belgium; Collaboration with the advisory team of the General Coordination of Urban Reorganization and Ecological Protection of the Department of the Federal District in the Program for the Improvement of the Historic Centre of Mexico City.