Libeskind isn't widely admired for his architecture—purists consider him a blowhard—but he knows the value of the press, which is probably why he's one of the most famous architects in America.
Libeskind was born in Poland and moved to Israel with his family when he was 11. The family relocated to New York in 1959 and Libeskind later headed off to high school at Bronx Science, which is where he says he first decided to pursue architecture at the age of 17. But more than three decades would pass before he'd actually see one of his designs carried out. Libeskind spent most of his early career as an academic, immersing himself in the theoretical principles of the field as a professor at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and Cooper Union in New York. In 1989 he finally embarked on his first project, the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which he spent a decade working on before it was finally completed in 1999. The museum earned resounding praise from critics, and helped win the architect his second major commission, designing a new building for the Denver Art Museum. Libeskind became a household name in New York in 2002, following George Pataki's announcement that he'd picked him to design the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero.
The fight over control of Ground Zero exposed Libeskind to good deal of criticism from his peers and critics, who resented both his lack of real-world experience and his propensity for hogging the spotlight, and there were plenty of whispers that his selection may have had more to do with politics than any bold aesthetic choice on the part of the governor. It certainly didn't help Libeskind's cause when it was reported that he didn't even have a U.S. architectural license until five months after he won the WTC commission. However, the efforts to sideline Libeskind from the World Trade Center project have hardly hurt his career prospects. Quite on the contrary: He now has more than a dozen massive projects underway. [Image via Getty]