Two years after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, signs of the disaster remain, particularly in the dense downtown district. The once regal National Palace sits in shambles; the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the country's central Catholic church, is an eerie ruin speckled with trash. While much rubble has been cleared from the streets, the urban core is still dotted with partially collapsed buildings and deplorable refugee camps. To the typical American, the scene feels apocalyptic.
But there is one gleaming structure here: the Iron Market, or March' de Fer, a late-19th-century facility that has been beautifully restored by the U.K. architect John McAslan and a diverse group of Haitian and foreign consultants. The striking landmark comprises two 25,000-square-foot halls filled with an assortment of goods, from fruit to wigs to voodoo potions. Between the halls, a clock tower pavilion flanked by four 75-foot-tall minarets rises from a busy courtyard. Personally funded by the owner of Digicel, one of Haiti's main cell phone providers, the $12 million project serves as a rare symbol of revival in this destitute metropolis of roughly 3 million people. 'Everybody in Haiti recognizes this as something that was almost destroyed and has come back to life,' says McAslan.