In the Heritage at Risk 2001/2002 report we presented an extract of a more comprehensive study presented in June 2001 in Toledo, Spain; to a small extent the anomalies exposed have diminished but the fundamental problems still continue.
The Central University of Ecuador, through the Social, Design and Communication Investigation Workshop TISDYC, is undertaking a cultural audit that demonstrates actions since 8 September 1978 in Quito; Cracow and Quito were the first cities in the world to be placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among other things, this audit reveals the facts presented below.
In the historical centre of Quito, in adjoining premises, are two buildings that are classified in the Cultural Heritage listing of the city: the church El Belen, the first built during the colonial period, and the Femenino Espejo College, an important neo-classical architectural work.
The Fund to Rescue Cultural Heritage, an entity within the Metropolitan Municipality of Quito, is responsible for protecting urban heritage. The Fund put forward a proposal to intervene in the above-mentioned college (without the indispensable authorisation), and the works are now in the midst of execution. On the one hand, the new three-storey building drastically assaults the El Belen church; on the other, the old educational building that was originally two floors, is being converted into a four-storey building by using the basement and elevating an additional floor, a fact that has changed the character and integrity of this important building.
The parish priest of the church, the neighbours, the College of Architects of Ecuador, the Gremio de Albaniles specialised in restoration have organised to energetically protest against the action of the Fund to Rescue.
The Commission of Historical Areas of Municipal Quito, in session on 8 March 2002, resolved to disallow the third floor of the new work; unfortunately, following an appeal by the Espejo College, on 24 April 2002 the resolution was revoked, limiting the disallowance to only two of the six modules of the third floor. The result was that the detrimental impact of the building works was maintained.
A similar thing happened a few years ago with the mansion of the historian José Gabriel Navarro (a classified building). The Ministry of Education and Culture at that time removed the building from the list of the National Cultural Heritage to permit its total demolition to construct in its place four highly speculative towers.
It is therefore clear, sadly, that the cultural heritage of Quito remains in danger because of the inappropriate practices of institutions created to protect its cultural inheritance.