Tokyo Olympic stadium designs draw praise from critics but fail to excite public

Kyodo

Sports critics heaped praise while members of the public were divided over the two proposed designs for the new National Stadium.

“The proposals are similar,” Hiroshi Yamamoto, a professor of sports media at Tokyo’s Hosei University, said of the “technical proposals” released by the Japan Sport Council on Monday. “I think they became similar after the selection process was started all over and desirable features were narrowed down.”

The two anonymous documents, submitted to a tender process to select the design for the main venue of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, are both titled, “stadium in a forest,” and share similar total construction costs and completion dates.

“The entrants (in the tender) both sought functionality rather than flashy appearance,” Yamamoto said. “I would give passing marks to both, and I would be hard-pressed to choose one.”

The tender forms part of a fresh design selection process started in September after a proposal by architect Zaha Hadid was accepted and then rejected. The rejection followed a public outcry over an unclear selection process, the stadium’s extravagant scale and snowballing costs.

In a statement Monday, Hadid’s office criticized the way the government opted to replace the existing design team with entirely new firms.

“There are now serious risks of a rushed process, with no certainty on the likely construction cost of the stadium, and that it may not be ready in time or deliver a significant sporting legacy without expensive conversion after the 2020 Games,” a spokesman for Zaha Hadid Architects said.

In the current tender, the government-affiliated Japan Sport Council released the only two proposals without naming who created them, labeling them only as A and B.

The bidders are believed to be two joint ventures — the one behind plan A reportedly includes construction giant Taisei Corp. and architect Kengo Kuma, while the group that submitted plan B reportedly includes Takenaka Corp., Shimizu Corp., Obayashi Corp. and architect Toyoo Ito.

Akemi Masuda, a former Olympic runner and sports writer, said she likes the prominent use of wood and the avoidance of excessive height, features shared by the two projected structures.

“There was so much ballyhoo . . . (before the latest proposals), but, after all, I have a feeling we will have a great stadium designed with Japanese intricacy,” she said.

People out jogging Monday near the construction site were divided.

“They are just OK designs, but they are realistic,” said Shimpei Toeda, 35, who described himself as self-employed. “More important to local residents is for the stadium to continue to be used on a constant basis.”

Yasuhiro Kimura, a 34-year-old company employee, said that “both designs have a mundane appearance, and I can’t tell one from the other,” while 16-year-old Akihiro Mori, a high school baseball player, said in a disapproving tone, “They don’t have the characteristics particular to Tokyo.”

Satoko Ohashi, who co-heads a citizens’ group that has opposed the new National Stadium project, blasted the way the JSC hid parts of the proposals, including those that detailed entrants’ ideas to cut costs.

“I don’t understand (why) they want to hide things at this stage,” Ohashi said. “Also, it’s too late for the JSC to disclose them.”

Tomoyuki Suzuki, a Juntendo University professor and former Tokyo Metropolitan Government employee, called on the government to continue efforts to keep the public updated on the construction process.

  • cup_of_tea

    So where are they then?

  • Ahojanen

    Well, I like the overall design in both proposals with wooden materials and synthesis with local surroundings, but may not belong to the wider public opinion…

    The stadium’s wooden structures are to be replaced and updated in every certain period of time, like 式年遷宮 ritual in Ise. I think this is how Japan has sustained over cultural heritages under risk of depreciation over time.

    • Nicole

      The public is usually wrong when it comes to artistic and cultural legacies anyway. I like Kuma’s (Proposal A) traditional take on a stadium. The interiors are quite something.

    • Nicole

      The public is usually wrong when it comes to artistic and cultural legacies anyway. I like Kuma’s (Proposal A) traditional take on a stadium. The interiors are quite something.

  • Nicole

    Public taste is the worst gauge of value. If we did so, then Jurassic World would be crowned the best movie released this year. Shudder.

  • Xunzi55

    At this rate are they even going to finish it in time? This whole affair is turning into an epic disaster.