The battle for Ground Zero.
In big architectural competitions, the strongest, simplest image is always meant to grab the attention of public and media. On this basis, Lord Foster of Thames Bank, better known as Norman Foster, had already won the world's plum commission, to rebuild New York's Twin Towers, when his design, one of seven international contenders just before Christmas 2002, was unveiled. It "has success written all over it" sneered Herbert Muschamp, the New York Times architecture critic - who hated its un-American style and panned it as being more suitable for Singapore or Hong Kong. But it looked plausible on the skyline, where most of its rivals looked messy or gimmicky. Early American opinion polls put it ahead of the others. But in the politics of Manhattan, and particularly in the emotionally supercharged atmosphere around Ground Zero, nothing is for certain. Not only did Foster quickly lose ground to the subtler if less commercial designs of Daniel Libeskind and to the urbanistic and networking skills of Rafael Vinoly, but the truth is that none of these designs may ever be built.