To others, the dimming of Mr. Libeskind's glow is inevitable, a function of both a culture with a short attention span and the proper progression from overall design to individual detail. If there is less excitement about the design for the World Trade Center now than there once was, said Frederic M. Bell, the executive director of the American Institute of Architects' New York Chapter, it is "not through any diminishment of respect" for Mr. Libeskind. "When the actual buildings get designed, they supplant the drawings of what they might look like with what they will look like, and that's natural."
For his part, Mr. Libeskind is resolutely positive about the changes he and his master plan have been through. "With each new piece, something good has happened to the plan," he said. "It's an amplification and an accomplishment of the fundamental ideas of the site and in many cases it's an improvement."
"I don't approach this as my plan," he continued. "It's the plan of New York. That's why the plan won, because it's very practical." He added: "True art, you have to work with business. We are living in a market economy."
The once feisty architect seems to have concluded that it is easier to work within the system than to fight it. Whatever the case, he is already reaping the benefits of his newfound prominence, having been asked to build several skyscrapers in Europe. And perhaps whether Mr. Libeskind proves to be the most influential designer of ground zero doesn't really matter; he was the first, and first impressions count for a lot.
"He provided the vision," Mr. Rampe of the development corporation said. "Has that vision changed? Sure. But he allowed us to see our way out of the darkness of Sept. 11 and to figure out what to do with the site."