WIT Press

The adaptability of public space in Mexico City after an earthquake: A preliminary classification


Free (open access)


Volume 6 (2016), Issue 2



Page Range

104 - 113

Paper DOI



WIT Press




September 19th 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake in which thousands of people died and hundreds of buildings collapsed. During this disaster, public space played an extremely important role not only in the emergency phase but also in the reconstruction phase; streets and squares were used not only as shelter but also as strategic points for the collection of food and organization for reconstruction works. By being in a seismic risk zone, it is of utmost importance to assess the location, characteristics, and current situation of public space in Mexico City, as public space will be a crucial resource in an emergency both during and after a disaster of this dimension. Therefore, the results of a preliminary assessment of public spaces in Mexico City are presented here to answer two main questions. What and which characteristics had the public spaces used during and after the 1985 earthquake and what is the present state of these public spaces? Results show that although seismic risk persists, public space has diminished in terms of quality and quantity toward two trends. First, some spaces have been privatized and have been replaced by shopping malls, and secondly, other spaces are saturated with new buildings in and around public spaces. From this, we can conclude that the role of public space in relation to disaster has been demerited over the years, which reduces the possibilities of recovery in the aftermath after an earthquake. Therefore, urban policies and impact studies for new projects should reconsider the role that public space may play in case of a disaster in one of the most populated cities in the world.


earthquake, Mexico City, public space, recovery, seismic risk