ST. PETERSBURG — He may be the architect of New York City's ground zero project, but Daniel Libeskind won't have anything to do with the city's $50 million Pier project.
A five-member jury eliminated Libeskind's firm from consideration during its first meeting on Friday. The group whittled a list of 23 firms to nine semifinalists.
Also rejected was Tampa's Alfonso Architects, which had hired artist Dale Chihuly to be on its design team.
"I appreciate how they put together the team, very clever, politically and strategically orchestrated," said jurist Stanley Saitowitz, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkley. "But I'm Chihulied out, like I am with (architect) Frank Gehry. There's just too much Chihuly in the world."
Libeskind was cut partly on a concern his fame might overshadow the project.
"I thought we would get a Daniel Libeskind building," Saitowitz said. "I didn't think we'd get a response to all the unique possibilities of the project."
Jurist James Moore, a senior vice president of the architecture and planning firm HDR, called the Libeskind proposal very vague.
Also voted out was private developer Darryl LeClair, who in February unveiled his vision of the Pier during a presentation at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. He was part of a team with the lead designer of Sasaki Associates, a Massachusetts firm.
"They're the best landscape architectural firm in the world," said jurist Susan Fainstein, a professor of urban planning at Harvard University, of Sasaki. "But I didn't see them presenting an integrated plan, as far as buildings and landscape."
A few firms drew raves and seemed early front-runners, such as James Corner Field Operation, which designed New York's High Line Park, a green walkway atop an abandoned elevated freight railroad in New York that has become a popular destination.
"This firm's landscape architecture is amazing," Fainstein said. "(The High Line) has had more to do with the development in New York than any other recent project."
Six New York City firms were selected, including BIG, which Saitowitz said had designs of past projects that were "jaw dropping."
"They are one of the most brilliant operators in the field at the moment," he said.
Also getting high marks was HOK, a global firm with a Tampa office that designed the Salvador Dalí Museum.
"Their body of work with the Dalí, the St. Louis waterfront," said Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. "I thought it was a strong proposal, and I had it on the top of my list."
But Saitowitz didn't share the other panelists' enthusiasm about HOK.
"I think they could do the job, but it would be boring," he said. "I can't get excited about corporate architecture. Brilliance can't be created in a corporate environment."
The panel, which includes City Council member Leslie Curran, will choose three finalists at an Aug. 19 meeting. Finalists then must submit proposals by Nov. 29. The jury will rank the proposals next year. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the jury's final recommendation at its Feb. 2 meeting.
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.