Yesterday marked the opening of Port-au-Prince's historic Iron Market, a bustling and important space for commercial activity in the city center. Just one year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the famous landmark has been restored by UK firm, John McAslan + Partners, and was bankrolled completely by Irish mobile phone entrepreneur Denis O’Brien, whose company Digicel, dominates the Haitian cellphone market. The renovation went beyond restoring the open market to pre-earthquake status, and completely renovated and rebuilt the entire site with new solar panels on the roof.
Restoration of the Iron Market is seen as a symbol of hope to the people of Haiti who are largely still living in tents and makeshift shelters. Amazingly, the project was completed in less than a year, which was due to JMP’s previous experience working in Haiti as well as O’Brien’s commitment to the restoration and his $12 million donation. “It’s amazing it’s been so fast,” McAslan said. “It’s the only project which has been completed of any scale. But it could have taken five years without such a determined client.”
The Iron Market was originally built in 1891 and over the last century has become a cultural, historical and architectural landmark in Haiti. A fire damaged the market in 2008 and then last year’s earthquake demolished it, leaving behind only the landmark towers. JMP designed and facilitated the restoration, which brought it to a level of even before the fire in 2008.
The landmark towers were restored, the rest of the market rebuilt, solar panels were added to the roof and a concrete deck, built in the 1960s that killed vendors during the earthquake, was removed. All of the renovations were built in order to withstand seismic activity and a way that would require little maintenance in the future. Some of the original features were salvaged and JMP hired local workers to perform the renovation along with craftsmen to create the decorative metal work.
President Bill Clinton was on hand along with O’Brien yesterday for the opening of the bazaar along with hundreds of vendors waiting in line to start their work again. The National Palace still sits in ruins, but the Marché en Fer’s restoration will serve the people well as they continue to recover and rebuild their lives.
Images ©Allison Shelley & John McAslan courtesy of JMP