Haiti Iron Market

One year after the earthquake, the first large-scale building of the city has been restored with a project by John McAslan + Partners.

A photograph taken in the centre of Port-au-Prince shortly after the earthquake on 12 Jan 2010 shows a decimated city. Amid the rubble stood two red and green wrought iron towers, slightly skewed, burnt and broken, but still upright and connected to two covered halls. This building was the 19th century iron market (Marché en Fer), a much-loved centre of bustle and commerce in the city. One year after the earthquake, it is the first large-scale building to be restored in the city and the rebuilding employed hundreds of Haitians and gave a space for more to work.

According to legend, the building, which was made in Paris was originally intended to be a railway station and was flat-packed and headed for Cairo. Nobody knows how or why it ended up in Haiti, but it was warmly welcomed. The many tokens of nostalgia that surround the building include its prime position on the front of Haiti's 1,000 gourde bank note.

London-based architect John McAslan + Partners (JMP) was commissioned to take on the restoration of the overtly colonial, Muslim-influenced market. JMP became involved with Haiti two years ago, following his firm's voluntary work in Malawi with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), the former US president's foundation. The project was funded by the Irish billionaire Denis O'Brien of Digicel, which runs the Haitian mobile phone industry and is one of Haiti's largest employers.
Decimated by a 2008 fire and the 2010 earthquake, the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince, originally built in 1891, has been restored by London-based architect John McAslan + Partners
Decimated by a 2008 fire and the 2010 earthquake, the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince, originally built in 1891, has been restored by London-based architect John McAslan + Partners
Project architect Pauline Nee of JMP's historic buildings department says, whilst many aid organisation were working on emergency homes, schools and hospitals, the resurrection of the market offered symbolic effort to traders, vendors and shoppers. "Most important of course is housing and schools, but this was an iconic building in Haiti. It was on their bank note. It provided a market location for 700 or 800 vendors and a number of them had lost their positions." The mayor of Port-au-Prince explains how important the building is in teh city: "Anyone born in Port-au-Prince, who has shopped in Port-au-Prince, they all have a story, a memory, from the market"
Shortly after the earthquake on 12 Jan 2010, amid the rubble, the two red and green wrought iron towers, slightly skewed, burnt and broken, are still upright and connected to two covered halls.
Shortly after the earthquake on 12 Jan 2010, amid the rubble, the two red and green wrought iron towers, slightly skewed, burnt and broken, are still upright and connected to two covered halls.
Nee explains that when they first arrived in the city, hundreds of vendors and traders had already set up temporary stands next to the hoardings on the perimeter of the site. "Commerce is important. Getting back to normal life. You don't want to be recipients of aid – you want to trade and get that feeling of normality back." Despite the complexity of the project, a collaborative effort between the design team, local trades people and artisans resulted in the project being complete in just 10 months.
Anyone born in Port-au-Prince, who has shopped in Port-au-Prince, they all have a story, a memory, from the market
The resurrection of the market offered symbolic effort to hundreds of vendors and traders, who after the earthquake had already set up temporary stands next to the hoardings on the perimeter of the site
The resurrection of the market offered symbolic effort to hundreds of vendors and traders, who after the earthquake had already set up temporary stands next to the hoardings on the perimeter of the site
Wherever possible, JMP has worked with local trades people, helping the local labour force to develop its skills. Haitian artisans and metal workers, working with JMP, created the decorative features on the perimeter facades of the north market. The project supplied the local craftspeople with laser cutters, allowing them to develop new techniques and processes. The simple decorative design, which is consistent with the style of the south market, allows light to stream into the interior spaces. "There's a huge artisan community in Haiti – almost one in ten people are artisans," says Nee, "the market itself has a huge role in that, so we were able to occupy over hundred people from making decorative elements to the façade to onsite tasks such as building and construction."
In the background of the Port-au-Prince main square, after the earthquake on 12 Jan 2010 the overtly colonial, Muslim-influenced market, stand out
In the background of the Port-au-Prince main square, after the earthquake on 12 Jan 2010 the overtly colonial, Muslim-influenced market, stand out
Structurally, the key tasks were to create new foundations for the central pavilion and its towers; to re-create the lower parts of the tower that were beyond repair; and to dismantle and repair the damaged northern end of the south market, using iron sections from the collapsed north market where possible. The northern building has been re-built in its entirety, with a new design by John McAslan + Partners and ADG, fabricated from standard US manufactured steel sections for speed of erection and photovoltaic panels have been used on the roof, which will be used to supply all the power for the new lighting and low-energy fans. The scale and rhythms of the new structure match the original – and its facades, decorated by local artists, were designed to match those of the southern building.

Local metalworkers also repaired all the historic elements of the south market and research into the original design informed a bright red and green colour scheme that was used to decorate the project throughout.
Despite the complexity of the project, a collaborative effort between the design team, local trades people and artisans resulted in the project being complete in just 10 months.
Despite the complexity of the project, a collaborative effort between the design team, local trades people and artisans resulted in the project being complete in just 10 months.
Since their work on the market, McAslan has taken a wider role in the country's reconstruction. His office has launched "Building Back Better Communities", a prefab housing expo of 140 homes and a community centre. The aim of the project is to help rebuild communities and homes in Haiti. Using an Expo model, the Government of Haiti and others, can see and test different solutions – from the bespoke community-build to mass-produced housing units.
John McAslan + Partners is a leading architectural and design practice with a broad portfolio of award-winning British and international architecture generated by its offices in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. Having established an early reputation for rational, detail conscious design that delivered strikingly innovative buildings, the practice is carrying this approach even more boldly into new projects in every sector.

Today, John McAslan + Partners has a strong reputation for delivering new-build architecture, and giving vibrant and sustainable life to old and historic buildings through adaptive interventions. The practice was declared World Architect of the Year and Transport Architect of the Year for 2009 by Building Design and won Architect of the Year at the 2009 Roses Design Awards. It regularly wins RIBA Building of the Year awards, and was named as AJ's Architectural Practice of the Year on a number of occasions. The practice's work is widely published and its experts in every sector are frequently sought out for speaking engagements and topical comment in the media.

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