Iron Market Haiti – Conservation & Restoration of the Iron Market
The Iron Market in Port-au-Prince is a cultural, historic and architectural landmark in Haiti. Its location in the centre of the city means it is a significant commercial and social hub. John McAslan + Partners will rebuild and restore the market in time for it to re-open on the first anniversary of January 2010’s earthquake. The Iron Market will be an important resource for the residents of Port-au-Prince as well as an important symbol for the country’s recovery from devastation.
For well over a century, the Iron Market has been a bold symbol of Haiti’s independence and ambition, serving as the focus of commercial life and community aspiration in the city. After suffering a devastating fire in 2008 and the earthquake in 2010 the scheme has conserved or repaired all key historic details, using original salvaged materials wherever possible. Its renewal has involved hundreds of local artisans and artists in tasks such as conservation of the ironwork, decorative metalwork, stone dressing, and bricklaying. The reconstruction was carried out to accepted international standards in a country without any recognised building codes system in collaboration with ISPAN Haiti’s equivalent of English Heritage. Now fitted with effective lighting and solar energy systems, it is back in use for over 700 market stall vendors. The resurrected Iron Market is a symbol of hope for Haiti’s future and forms the cornerstone of a new city centre cultural quarter redevelopment strategy.
The Iron Market, or Marchée en Fer, has been an iconic symbol of Haitian community aspiration since its erection in 1889. The market’s northern wing suffered total collapse in a 2008 fire, and its northern central section and part of its southern range suffered severe damage in the devastating 2010 earthquake. The complex repair and restoration of the Iron Market, providing the first regeneration landmark in the ruined capital, was completed to an extraordinary deadline: the structure, which will be at the heart of a planned new tourist-attracting Cultural Quarter, was completely restored and in use exactly one year after the earthquake.
John McAslan + Partners led a multi-disciplinary team which restored or repaired all key original details, using original salvaged materials wherever possible. The renewal of the Iron Market’s structure has involved hundreds of local skilled artisans and artists in tasks such as conservation of the historic ironwork, steel-cutting, decorative metalwork, stone dressing and laying, and bricklaying. The reconstruction was carried out to accepted international standards in a country without any recognised building codes system.
The Iron Market comprises two 35ft high covered spaces, each covering 25,000 sq ft, whose structures are linked by bridges to a central pavilion with clocks facing east and west, and four towers carrying minaret-like structures. The remaining original structure is composed of decorative cast-iron columns and trusses supporting a wrought-iron superstructure with a raised, clear-storey roof. Its open lower section is surmounted by an arched and louvred façcade; above it there are shallow-pitched main roofs covered in corrugated metal, and raised clerestory roofs.
In collaboration with ISPAN (Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National), Haiti’s National Institute of Historic Preservationequivalent of English Heritage, and the Iron Market’s Director Jeune Augustin, the investigation of structural damage was led by JMP’s Pauline Nee and Robert Bowles of Alan Baxter and Associates. They developed a strategy to make the remaining structural elements safe, assessed what could be salvaged and re-used, and then set out a comprehensive repair and rebuilding plan. In addition to, periodic site visits by both John McAslan and Pauline Nee made periodic site visits , JMP architect Andy Meira remained in Port-au-Prince in a liason and reporting role throughout the year-long project [is that correct?].
The key issues included structural dismantling procedures, paint analyses, research into original French 19th century materials such as the quartz-veined French sandstone flooring, French roof tiles, bricks from Ivry, and the clock designed by Napoleon III’s horologist, Henri le Paute. The project also involved roof and gutter replacements, façade restoration, and repairs to the market’s brick perimeter walls and floor slabs.
The structure of the Iron Market posed unusual problems, notably in the repair of the central pavilion, which had been both tipped and twisted off its stone plinth when the upper level concrete deck linking the two market halls collapsed. The upper parts of the octagonal tubular corner towers, made of quarter-inch thick riveted and bolted iron plates, rested on badly twisted and corroded sections. They were temporarily anchored with concrete “galoshes” to prevent sudden collapse during dismantling and restoration.
JMP designed new foundations for the central pavilion and its towers; re-created the lower parts of the tower that were beyond repair; and dismantled and repaired the severely damaged end of the southern market building, using iron sections from the collapsed and burned-out northern building where possible. The northern building has been re-built in its entirety, with a steel I-beam structure rather than circular-sectioned elements. However, the scale and rhythms of the new structure match the original – and its façcades, decorated by local artists and members of the Arts et Ambiences artisans’ organisation, closely match those of the southern building.
The future of the Iron Market depends on more than its architectural resurrection, and JMP duly carried out a survey of its past, and potential, uses. Roughly 10 percent of Haiti’s population are artisans, and they will benefit from better, and cleaner, trading conditions in the renewed Iron Market. The market, now fitted with more effective servicing in terms of lighting, drainage, and solar energy systems, forms the cornerstone of a new city centre Cultural Quarter redevelopment strategy for Port-au-Prince.
The Iron Market in Port-au-Prince is a cultural, historic and architectural landmark and has been an iconic symbol of Haitian community aspiration for over 120 years. Its location in the centre of the city means it is a significant commercial and social hub.
Prefabricated in France by the celebrated engineers Baudet Donon & Cie, the iron structure was initially destined to serve as a railway station in Cairo (possibly explaining the building’s Islamic minarets), but for unknown reasons ended up in Haiti where it was inaugurated in 1891.
Having suffered extensive fire damage in 2008 which destroyed the Market’s north hall, the market’s central section and part of its southern range suffered severe damage in the devastating 2010 earthquake. John McAslan + Partners led a multi-disciplinary team, which included scores of local artisans, to resurrect the entire Iron Market within one year of the earthquake with the reconstructed market inaugurated by President Bill Clinton on January 11, 2011, the first anniversary of the 2010 earthquake. The scheme preserved or repaired all key details, using original materials wherever possible.
The Iron Market is an important resource for the residents of Port-au-Prince as well as an important symbol for the country’s recovery from devastation. Elements of new design in the restoration incorporate current thinking on earthquake resistance and seismic requirements. JMP also ensured high quality manufacture and finishes to reduce any maintenance requirements in the future. The Iron Market is now returned to daily use and forms the cornerstone of a new city-centre cultural quarter redevelopment strategy.
“When the Haiti earthquake mangled Port-au-Prince’s Iron Market, it destroyed a symbol of the nation. Built in France and bound for Cairo to serve as a railway station, the vagaries of history, tides or captains led it to end up here, where it served as a perfectly good market hall until ravaged first by fire in 2008 and then by earthquake.
Working on a pro-bono basis the architects led an international multi-disciplinary team working with all-local craftsmen to salvage what they could of the original twisted structure and other materials and painstakingly reconstruct the rest.
Funded by Irish billionaire, Denis O’Brien, and re-opened by former US President, Bill Clinton, the Iron Market is now fully functioning with 700 stall holders and forms the cornerstone of a new cultural hub for the city.” – Jury Verdict / RIBA International Award
The Institute of Structural Engineers Awards – Sustainability Award:
The Iron Market is of high cultural, historical and economic importance to the people of Haiti, so after suffering severe damage in the 2010 earthquake, there was a strong desire to salvage as much of it as possible. Appropriate innovation had to be born out of basic structural principles, as was beautifully demonstrated in the case of the clock tower. Safety fears were overcome by using mass concrete galoshes to stabilise, allowing safe dismantling and the reuse of undamaged parts. A basic model comprising beer cans and expanded polystyrene was used to prove the idea to the project team.
“This project is an exemplar of the vital contribution of structural engineering excellence in sustaining and extending the life of our critical aging infrastructure. The diversity of technical, management, environmental and construction challenges faced by the team on this landmark project were simply breath-taking. Its success is a testament to their structural engineering skill and tenacity. The teams’ ability to build upon engineering first principles and pioneer innovative new strengthening techniques were fundamental to realising the objectives of the project.” – Judges’ comment
Project name: Iron Market
Location: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Coordinates: 18.551556, -72.343133
Type: Adaptive Reuse, Market
Materials: cast iron structure, steel structure fabricated
Project Area: 4645 sqm
Completion Year: Jan 2011
Client / Owner / Developer: Institut de Sauvegarde de Patrimoine National, Digicel, Municipality of Port-au-Prince
Architects: John McAslan+Partners – 7-9 William Rd, London, NW1 3ER, United Kingdom
Interior designer: John McAslan+Partners
Landscape Designer: John McAslan+Partners
Environmental Engineer: Axis Design Group
Structural Engineer: Alan Baxter & Associates
Structural Engineer: Aamer Islam – Axis Design Group
Steel Engineer: O’BRIEN Steel Consulting
Specialist Metalwork: Arts and Ambiance
Contractor: GDG Breton et Construction
Project Manager: Digicel
Text Description: © Courtesy of John McAslan+Partners, The Institute of Structural Engineers Awards, Civic Trust Awards
Images: © Hufton + Crow, Allison Shelley