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Culture

Libeskind's WTC Design Still on Drawing Board

Last March Berlin-based architect Daniel Libeskind emerged as the winner of an international contest to rebuild Ground Zero. Since then, his design has been pushed into the background as a political struggle ensued.

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A Libeskind design within a Libeskind design: the Ground Zero model at Berlin's Jewish Museum.

Visitors to Berlin's Jewish Museum this month can peruse the model architect Daniel Libeskind made of the office tower complex that will soon rise out of the ruins of the World Trade Center.

At least that's what it is supposed to do.

Two years to the day that two hijacked plans destroyed the massive twin towers, the developmental future of "Ground Zero" looks anything but secure.

Since Libeskind's design was selected on March 1 to replace the two massive towers destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, control over the design and the site have endangered the project. A confusing jumble of Sept. 11 victims' organizations, insurers, city and state officials and the owner of the World Trade Center lease continue to debate Libeskind's design.

From the front seat to the back

Lease owner Larry Silverstein, who wants more office space than provided in Libeskind's plan, has appointed his preferred architect, David Childs, as the chief architect on the most dramatic part of the design, the 1,776-foot tall "Freedom Tower." Libeskind's title was also changed, from chief to "collaborating" architect.

The moves appear to be a demotion for the Polish-born architect, who emerged from a field of world-class architects to snatch the project in the 11th hour in March. But Libeskind appeared nonplussed by the intrusion at a recent press conference to open an exhibit of his work at the Jewish Museum, considered one of his best creations.

"What will come out of it is not a hodge-podge of eclectic mixtures and compromises, but an evolution of a plan that was initially robust enough and strong enough and flexible enough to accommodate the evolving program," said Libeskind, who moved his offices from Berlin to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in May.

New architect in the mix

Silverstein also seems untroubled by the architectural stew, which saw the addition of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrav recently to build the site's new commuter railway station.

"Three gifted architects, world-renowned, with major bodies of work to their credit," Silverstein told the Associated Press. The 72-year-old developer went on to say that he thought the site would be fully developed within the next ten years. City officials certainly hope things get moving quickly. The 16-acre hole was home to the most active office space in southern Manhattan. Thousands of jobs have been lost and companies relocated since the attacks, and politicians are eager to get the new towers built and the offices filled.

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