But the quake galvanized Mr. O'Brien's interest and he moved quickly. According to the mayor of Port-au-Prince, Jean-Yves Jason, Mr. O'Brien proposed the project a week after the quake. (source)
"Quickly" is an understatement. Denis had immediately realized that because the Iron Market had traditionally been, to use his own words, "the economic and cultural fulcrum of the city." (ibid.), in other words, a national icon, that restoring it was essential to recovering a portion of national pride, not to mention raising the morale of Haitians everywhere. So O'Brien assembled a mighty task-force led by project manager George Howard and the architectural firm John McAslan and Partners that would work closely with Mayor Jason to accomplish this "Phoenix rising" feat of Irish magic, aided by a bit of Irish Green in the form of twelve million dollars out of his own pocket:
Within a few weeks, Mr. O'Brien had assembled a group of engineers, architects and managers. He also hung a big red placard on the site announcing a completion date: December 2010.Moreover, everyone was well-initiated into a deep understanding of the extent of destruction that Nature can inflict upon Haiti at any time in the form of hurricanes, sweltering heat and/or earthquakes, thus great pains were taken to not merely meet but exceed the international earthquake and hurricane codes, all in this slim window of time.
"An impossible target," said Mr. McAslan, who worked on the project. "Even in the States it would take three to five years." (ibid.)
- by Mac
Crane truck parked between the wings
And no expense or effort was spared in restoring the classic design and artistry of the original Iron Market, as well as embellishing the interior of the new north and south halls adjacent to the minarets with indigenous Haitian art work and styles. Again to quote Pooja Batia:
Workers salvaged much from the ruins, including original bricks and cast-iron columns from the north hall. For the market halls' louvers, a Haitian artist, Philippe Dodard, designed cutouts based on the original 19th-century design and on symbols from Haiti's indigenous Taino population, casting delightful shadows on the market floor. Mr. Howard, the project manager, managed to get new tiles from a French company that bought the original tile manufacturer.
The most delicate parts of the renovation concerned the tower and minarets. Over the summer, they were disassembled, loaded onto flatbeds, and driven to the workshop Mr. Dodard runs with an engineer, Dimitri Craan, for renovation by local artisans. The cast-iron columns also ended up at Mr. Dodard's workshop, where a dozen specialists in cast-iron welding refurbished them for reinstallation in part of the south market that had collapsed. (ibid.)
- by Mac
Arabesque detail of a minaret dome
- by Mac
Decorative geometrical design cut into the steelwork of one of the wings
There was an obvious reason for O'Brien to want the project completed by the end of December. The first anniversary of the earthquake would be on January 12, 2011, and Denis had every intention of adding the inauguration of the Phoenix-risen Iron Market to the list of events for that auspicious second Wednesday in January. As that day approached, everyone went into high overdrive on construction, artistic renovation, even the reestablishment of the merchandise market itself:
Already, hundreds of the original market merchants, registered after the 2008 fire and the quake by Mayor Jason's office, were lining up inside the market to reclaim their stalls. Mr. O'Brien wanted them at the inauguration. (ibid.)
- by Mac
The south wing or hall
Inside the south hall after hours, where hundreds of vendors ply their trades during the work day.
Finally the great day came. Not everything was completed, especially the ambitious solar energy system, but the Iron Market was, for all extensive purposes, up and running and open for business. Good Irish luck would also have it that there is an Associated Press video of the inauguration on YouTube:
Enter Another Dennis, Dennis Mee
The resurrected Iron Market is cutting edge/state-of-the-art in many of its features, not the least of which is its energy system. Denis O'Brien realized that in a nation with a badly beaten up electrical grid and riddled with daily brownouts and blackouts, not to mention the ongoing instability of oil and gas markets globally, that going solar and thus energy-efficient Green might be a really frugal move, as well as being environmental-friendly.
I myself have had to suffer through sitting in my hotel room or out on the bar patio in Port-au-Prince, writing or conversing, when suddenly the electricity goes out, not once a day, but repeatedly. So why would anyone with any business sense want to pump millions into rebuilding an edifice and then have it be dependent on that kind of system. So O'Brien's people contacted Dennis Mee, president of a well-respected solar products sales and installation company out of Florida that has been installing systems in the Caribbean, Coronado Custom Homes Solar Division.