McAslan completes first Haiti project since earthquake
Only one major reconstruction project has been completed in Haiti a year on from the devastating earthquake that killed at least 200,000 people and left a further 2 million without shelter.
John McAslan & Partners’ $5 million restoration of the historic Iron Market in the capital, Port-au-Prince, was opened yesterday by Bill Clinton on the eve of today’s first anniversary of the disaster.
Some other projects — such as the first of seven schools being built by Architecture for Humanity — are nearing completion and much preparatory work has been carried out.
But the uncertainty created by the ongoing election in the country has caused delays and meant developed countries have been unwilling to part with the $10 billion they pledged until a stable government is in place.
The Iron Market project has been completed so quickly thanks, in part, to the efforts of Irish mobile phone entrepreneur Denis O’Brien, who is bankrolling the scheme.
The market, built in 1889, was damaged by fire in 2008 before the earthquake finished the job. Only the distinctive entrance towers remained, and they were on the verge of collapse.
JMP repaired these, rebuilt the rest of the market, added solar panels, and removed a concrete deck installed in the 1960s. The team managed to salvage some original features and employed local craftsmen to create the decorative metalwork.
McAslan, who has been working in Haiti for many years, said he hoped the reopening of one of the country’s most famous buildings would prove a symbol of hope for a population still living in temporary shelters.
“It’s amazing it’s been so fast,” he 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.”
JMP is also part of team running a Housing Expo which has raised $2.5 million to build an exemplar settlement of 150 houses by November. Following a conference this month to discuss the best techniques, construction is set to begin in May.
But McAslan was critical of the “lack of joined-up action” by the 10,000 NGOs currently working in Haiti.
“It’s absolutely key that reconstruction is led by the government and the government has only in recent months re-established itself,” he said. “The country is also still in the throes of a painful presidential election.”
But charities have said the devastation is on such a vast scale that it is unreasonable to expect visible results fast — and that much is happening below the radar.
Kate Stohr from Architecture for Humanity said the organisation had achieved “good strong progress”. As well as having seven schools under construction, it is tackling a shortage of construction professionals by helping train Haitians in cad and bim.
She said: “Rebuilding the economic base and the professional capacity is very important to addressing the more long-term systemic issues of clean water, sanitation, basic services and economic prosperity.”