Born in Poland, Libeskind's family immigrated to Israel when he was 11, and then to New York. He studied music seriously as a teenager, but at age 19 decided to pursue architecture, enrolling at Cooper Union in New York.
His architectural firm won the 1989 competition to build the Jewish Museum in Berlin. When the museum opened in 2001, Time magazine reported that“it instantly made him one of the most sought-after architects in the world.” He also received commissions to build additions to museums in London, Toronto, San Francisco, and Denver as well as the creation of a number of other cultural institutions.
In February 2003, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation chose his design for rebuilding the 16-acre site of the former World Trade Center, which had been destroyed in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The design includes a hanging garden, a memorial, a cultural center, and is topped by a spiral tower reaching 1,776 feet tall, which will make it the tallest building in the world. Libeskind estimates it will cost $330 million and take more than ten years to rebuild the site.