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Daniel Libeskind's winning design for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center is decent, spiritual -- even iconic.

But the genius of the man comes in manoeuvring his way neatly through a dizzying process that is sorely lacking a client and a budget.

At no time was that more evident than at yesterday's formal announcement, when Mr. Libeskind was declared the winner over the THINK team in what will go down as the most significant architectural race in U.S. history.

When Mr. Libeskind was invited to take the podium in New York, he was immediately greeted by a standing ovation. All the political stakeholders were there, including Governor George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and representatives from the U.S. government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Mr. Pataki described Mr. Libeskind's plan as one that was "born out of tragedy, but reached out to democracy."

Winning the remarkable commission to redesign 6½ hectares of Lower Manhattan is a task like no other. Although the Port Authority owns the site, Larry Silverstein is the major leaseholder -- of nearly 1.1 million square metres of office space that no longer exists. Westfield, the major Australian retail consortium, is short about 90,000 square metres of what used to be ranked one of the most valuable underground shopping concourses in North America.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. is merely an ad hoc organization established to organize the architecture competition and revitalization of the Lower Manhattan economy.

"How can you be in charge when you don't even own the site?" asked Raymond Gastil, executive director of the Van Alen Institute, which sponsors important exhibitions and conferences on architecture and urban design in New York.

"A lot of the sales jobs will reside with [Mr. Libeskind] In most cases, there is a client, and the client does that job," said Robert Ivy, editor of Architectural Record magazine, based in New York.

Indeed, Mr. Libeskind has a winning smile that helps to smooth the most complex of problems. He exudes a sparkling intelligence and a near-hyper way of speaking in public. His Trade Center scheme "provides for all the things that we need to be full citizens of the world," he said at the press conference.

An architect with a stunning gift for drawing, Mr. Libeskind commits his gut response to a problem immediately to paper. For rebuilding ground zero, the architect seized on the great slurry walls that withstood the terrorist attack.

He drew the initial concepts for the Memorial Foundation, an idea that resonated with John Whitehead, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, because it allowed for abundant space for a memorial without any physical restraints. His drawings of two major public spaces with direct access into ground zero were also tirelessly presented throughout his campaign to win the project.

To restore New York's skyline, Mr. Libeskind designed a tower that will spiral well above the height of the original World Trade Center and become the tallest building in the world, at 1,776 feet. The first 75 stories are reserved for offices with the rest of the needle-like tower designed to hold "the Vertical Garden of the World." In this way, he presented the most highly charged symbols of America -- the American Declaration of Independence and the Statue of Liberty -- sunny-side up on a platter.

The urban complex, which proposes a major transportation centre, performance hall, interpretative museum and several office towers around the perimeter of the site, is designed to allow for the chopping and editing expected over time, but to survive with integrity.

"There were people that said the twin towers [proposed by THINK]would never get built," Mr. Gastil said, not just for cost reasons but because that team pushed hard for the towers to be reserved for public facilities, rather than money-generating offices.

"And if they weren't built, then what was left to talk about? Whereas if you make the Libeskind tower shorter you still have something around the pit," he said.

Mr. Libeskind created a similar talking point for the competition to redevelop the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto: a series of crystalline structures he drew on the museum's restaurant napkins.

During the final stage of the competition, an enchanting model of the napkin sketches was created that looked like shimmering, jagged quartz. So it was tough on the public when it learned that the museum addition was not entirely clad in glass, but zigzagged with schisms of light.

William Thorsell, director of the Royal Ontario Museum, said no final decision has been made on the opaque cladding material for the new building, although stainless steel is still being seriously considered.

"Give Mr. Libeskind his head -- give him scope," said Mr. Thorsell, who noted that the WTC announcement was made exactly one year after the ROM appointed Mr. Libeskind to design its addition.