Here are some late-breaking links about the Iron Market, a landmark building whose restoration is viewed by some as a much-needed symbol of hope in Haiti.

The New York Times says:

The project has become a lone bright spot in Haiti’s stalled reconstruction. Built to international codes, equipped with solar panels and resistant to hurricanes and earthquakes, the renovated Iron Market epitomizes the hope of the international community that Haiti might “build back better,” in the words of former President Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy for Haiti.

Another fine article from the Guardian (UK) explores further:

As John McAslan, the restoration architect for the Iron Market, says, historic architecture “symbolised the struggle of Haiti, its working life, its extraordinary history. Of course, rebuilding hospitals and schools and homes is a priority, but the country needs symbols of hope.”

In that respect, Haiti faces a dilemma: on one hand, there is the need to get the country back on its feet quickly; on the other, there’s the desire to preserve what links to the past remain. Yes, architecture is about providing shelter, security and functionality, but it is also about culture, memory and history. In a place like today’s Haiti, the former values inevitably take precedence, particularly when there are innumerable charities and NGOs advancing well-meaning but uncoordinated reconstruction projects. Churches and other historic structures have already been toppled or razed, their futures uncertain. This country that has lost so much still has more to lose, but who wants to talk about preserving culture and history when there are still 1.5 million people living in tents?

A good question, and a necessary one. Preservation isn’t the first humanitarian impulse, nor should it be, but it’s inarguably an essential part of reconstructing a country.

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