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Libeskind unveils four-year target for Ground Zero

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The centrepiece skyscraper in Daniel Libeskind's design for New York's Ground Zero will be completed within the next four years, the architect said this week.

The designer of the world's most talked about architectural project - who has been in England to present the plans - dismissed suggestions that they would be held up by politics and infighting.

Development of the first phase will be completed quickly, he claimed during an Architecture Foundation talk in London on Monday. The first four years will see the restoration of a street pattern, the construction of the sunken memorial - the design of which is soon to go out to international competition - the museums around the memorial and the performing arts centre, the new train station and the 1776-ft tower, a symbolic monument to the Declaration of Independence.

'You have to be optimistic, ' he said. 'I think it will be built very quickly. There is an urgency to it.'

He added that within the next two to four weeks he would be signing framework agreements with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the New York's Port Authority that would establish, legally and politically, the design principles for the site.

Libeskind, who has been living in Berlin during construction of his Jewish Museum, has abandoned plans to move to London to oversee his Spiral project for the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Instead, he will be opening an office in New York.

'I have to follow the muse, ' he said.

And he claimed the superstar competition had caused a 'revolution' in the public's interest and understanding of architecture, with 70 million people visiting the LMDC website during the final phase of the competition 'There was no cab driver or professional person who did not talk to me about the project. Everyone had a design idea, ' he said.

'I received hundreds of drawings. One person said to me, 'Mr Libeskind, why don't you build a piazza in the shape of a heart?' There are as many architects as there are New Yorkers. No one will be able to build a mediocre building now, not even in the Bronx, without people asking, 'what does this do for us?''

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