Design by architect Kengo Kuma picked for Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium

by

Staff Writer

After scrapping the first design in July, the government Tuesday picked a less-costly and greenery-rich plan by architect Kengo Kuma for the new National Stadium that will serve as the centerpiece of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The winning proposal, formerly known as design A, was submitted by a joint venture comprised of an architect, construction firm Taisei Corp. and construction support firm Azusa Sekkei Co.

It features a roof made of wood and steel for a design that draws on traditional Japanese architecture.

It has already been dubbed the “hamburger” on social media in Japan.

The height of the stadium has been set at less than 50 meters so it will fit its landscape, apparently to avoid what critics said were mistakes in the ill-fated design by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.

The decision came after five months of reviewing and rearranging the construction project after consulting athletes, professionals and other stakeholders. The new approach was made necessary when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrapped Hadid’s design in July amid a public outcry over the opaque selection process that featured an extravagant design, a rough estimate of the construction period and snowballing costs.

“To be honest, I feel a bit relieved now,” Olympic minister Toshiaki Endo told reporters after the Cabinet met Tuesday to finalize the selection. “At the same time, I expect the winning companies to build a new National Stadium that can win trust from the world and people in Japan by taking full advantage of Japanese technologies and finishing the construction on time.”

The Japan Sport Council (JSC), which is overseeing the construction project, will finalize the contract with the winning party next month and plans to start construction as early as December 2016.

All construction is scheduled to finish by November 2019 so that the stadium will be ready for the Olympics opening ceremony in July 2020.

The estimated cost of the overall project, including construction, design and other work, is estimated at ¥153 billion, of which the central government will pay half. The rest will come from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and revenue from the sports promotion lottery organized by the JSC.

Two proposals were reviewed Saturday during 90-minute hearings for each design. The JSC’s seven-member panel specializing in architecture and landscape assessed each design based on nine criteria, including expected construction costs and time, as well as incorporating Japanese characteristics.

The winning design received 610 points. The other design, identified previously as design B which turned out Friday to have been put forward by a venture comprised of architect Toyo Ito and construction firms Takenaka Corp., Shimizu Corp. and Obayashi Corp., lost with 602 points.

Tipping the balance was the estimated construction time. While both teams projected that construction would be done by November 2019, design A received 177 points in this category, but design B got only 150.

Architect and critic Takashi Moriyama said the 27-point difference could be attributed to the panel taking a cautious stance so as to avoid making the same mistake as was made in July.

“Design B proposed an unprecedented method for construction (to shorten the building period) by using new materials to build the stadium, whereas design A proposed using a more orthodox method that is familiar to everyone … I believe the judges assessed design A as being less risky,” Moriyama said.

The design proposed by Hadid became the center of public criticism due to its futuristic but grandiose design that many thought did not fit in with the greenery-rich Meiji Jingu Gaien park area.

Because of difficulties realizing Hadid’s design, which featured two keel arches supporting a striking roof that was said to resemble the shape of a cyclist’s helmet, construction costs were estimated at up to ¥252 billion — almost double the ¥130 billion estimate when the plan was adopted by the JSC in the wake of an international design competition held in 2012.

Moriyama said the simplistic design of the winning proposal, which will have trees and shrubbery both inside the building and around it, is a good match in a landscape that for decades has been known for the several sporting facilities that crowd the area, unlike Hadid’s futuristic design that some thought would clash with existing structures.

“We feel buildings constructed with cold metallic plates and with a concrete surface to be less luxurious, no matter what the construction cost,” Moriyama said, adding that the new stadium should be embraced more warmly by Tokyo residents.

In a statement last week, Hadid’s office condemned the government’s decision 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.

  • Steve Jackman

    Looks like it fits the criteria by checking all the boxes which are all the rage in Japan these days, those being: 1) Boring/uninspired, 2) Thinking small/insularity, and 3) “Japanese-ness”.

    It once again shows a total lack of imagination, creativity and origanility in Japan today. Clearly, thinking small and diminished expectations have won again.

    This stadium could have been built in any country over the last fifty years. “Japanese-ness” is just code for designed by a Japanese architect, as opposed to the original design which was by a non-Japanese architect. Not worthy of the Olympic stadium in the third largest economy in the world.

    • 108

      Right, because they picked Zaha Hadid in the first place and then, two years later, they realized she is not Japanese! (mass hysteria, rice field riots, bureaucrats committing suicide…) When there’s a foreigner involved, you can’t go wrong playing the racism card, huh? There’s no “we screwed up because X or Y”, it’s always the R-word, right? That sounds like a gross generalization to me, can you help me find a name for it?

      • Steve Jackman

        Here’s an excerpt from another article published in this newspaper, which has the following reaction from Zaha Hadid to this design selection:

        “In her statement, Hadid accused her Japanese rivals of colluding with officials to abandon her futuristic design.

        “Sadly the Japanese authorities, with the support of some of those from our own profession in Japan, have colluded to close the doors on the project to the world,” Hadid said.

        “This shocking treatment of an international design and engineering team, as well as the respected Japanese design companies with whom we worked, was not about design or budget,” she said. “In fact much of our two years of detailed design work and the cost savings we recommended have been validated by the remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration with those of the design announced today”

      • Blair

        “seating bowl configuration”…there’s an original sports stadium idea! What other ideas did the new design pilfer…an atrium and washrooms?

      • jcbinok

        I agree that painting everything with the broad brush of racism, when some things are just tough breaks, is not fair. It happens in the US all the time. That said, when this Olympic stadium story first started to make some noise over the summer and they cancelled the contract with the foreign woman, my first thought was: ‘They’ll definitely award it to a Japanese architect next time.’ And, voila. That’s not proof, but it’s a really strong impression.

        A better way to handle the gaffe might have been to work with the original prize winner to come to a more agreeable plan. Other of her designs are quite varied and well in harmony with their surroundings.

      • Steve Jackman

        “A better way to handle the gaffe might have been to work with the original prize winner to come to a more agreeable plan”. Zaha Hadid Associates did indeed present a revised plan which included changes to meet all the new requirements. However, it was never seriously considered by Japan, since the second competition was always about selecting a Japanese architect over the “gaffe” of having selected a foreign architect in the original competition.

      • jcbinok

        I agree that painting everything with the broad brush of racism, when some things are just tough breaks, is not fair. It happens in the US all the time. That said, when this Olympic stadium story first started to make some noise over the summer and they cancelled the contract with the foreign woman, my first thought was: ‘They’ll definitely award it to a Japanese architect next time.’ And, voila. That’s not proof, but it’s a really strong impression.

        A better way to handle the gaffe might have been to work with the original prize winner to come to a more agreeable plan. Other of her designs are quite varied and well in harmony with their surroundings.

    • Blair

      beats the concrete albatross they built in Montreal that never gets used and is still being paid for 40 years later

      • jcbinok

        Hey, I parked my car at Olympic Stadium on a visit to Montreal once. It’s not totally useless.

  • Pink Floyd

    The last thing the Japanese want is a foreigner designing a stadium in Tokyo so they chose the Japanese designer , it’s a reflection of Japans xenephobia… the olympics should never have been awarded to Tokyo anyway, lies about Fukushima, institutional racism with no anti discrimination laws, under the table deals galore in the yakuza owned construction industry… i could go on..

    • 108

      Can you explain that again? The Japanese “don’t want a foreigner designing a stadium in Tokyo” yet they pick one as winner of the original competition? Landmark facilities such as Kansai and Haneda airports terminal buildings, Yokohama Port’s International Passenger Terminal, The Imperial Hotel, National Museums in Tokyo and Osaka, Tokyo International Forum -all of them by foreign architects-, exactly how do they fit your analysis?…

      • Blair

        stop making sense…you’re ruining the narrative

      • Pink Floyd

        I suggest you read up on things before you comment again. Hadid Zaha actually said “They don’t want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium,” Hadid also said her japanese architect ” friends” turned on her when she was awarded the design for the stadium…. i think that fits my ” analysis” as you put it.

      • Pink Floyd

        I suggest you read up on things before you comment again. Hadid Zaha actually said “They don’t want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium,” Hadid also said her japanese architect ” friends” turned on her when she was awarded the design for the stadium…. i think that fits my ” analysis” as you put it.

  • castle_picture

    Closely visited two structures by the same architect this year – new Kabuki theater in Ginza and the beautifully designed Nagasaki Prefecture Art Museum. Seems like a very good choice to me. Glad that more people are demanding great architecture.

  • Karagarga

    I can live with it. Hope the greenery on the walls pans out. Anything is better than the visual obscenity that was rejected. Should be a Japanese architect, if they have any self-respect at all.

    • Steve Jackman

      “I can live with it”, “good enough” and “too much trouble” are phrases you hear all too often in Japan these days. This type of thinking is exactly behind the boring and uninspired design of the Olympics stadium. Sad to see Japan go from wanting to be the best in the world to such “I can live with it” mentality within the scope of just a few decades.

    • jcbinok

      If the designer “should be a Japanese architect” then why open up an international competition?

      • Steve Jackman

        It is just to mislead the world into thinking that Japan is an open country and a part of the global community, which it most certainly is not.

  • DA

    A hamburger indeed, compared to Hadid’s nouvelle cuisine.

    • Blair

      nouvelle cuisine=overpaid and left empty

  • At Times Mistaken

    I can’t tell from this story if the moniker, “hamburger,” is a term of endearment or derision. I also wonder why the article omits Hadid’s claim of “remarkable similarities” between the new design and the original blueprint drawn up by her firm.

  • Abusoru007

    I like the idea. Seems like it will blend into the surrounding area a lot better than the old design. I’ve always liked it when stadiums take a cue from what is already there, a la Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore with the warehouse in the outfield.

    • KenjiAd

      Camden Yards is such a beauty. Ken Griffey Jr actually hit a ball to that warehouse during Home-run derby some time ago (don’t remember the year). Maybe he’s the only one who’s done that feat.

    • Steve Jackman

      Frank Lloyd Wright designed with the surroundings in mind. Kuma is no Frank Lloyd Wright. This design looks like it came right out of a Muji catalog.

      • KenjiAd

        Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959. Construction of Camden Yards (aka Orioles Park) started in 1989. If we believe what wikipedia says, Camden Yards was designed by a firm called “Populous” founded in 1983.

        Is it possible you don’t know what you are talking about? lol

      • Steve Jackman

        I never implied Frank Lloyd Wright designed Camden Yards. Having difficulty with reading comprehension?

      • KenjiAd

        Nice editing of the original post on which I commented, Steve. lol

        Still, Frank Lloyd Wright has absolutely nothing to do with the Orioles Stadium in any form or shape, as he was DEAD 30 years before the stadium was built. You probably did some lousy Internet search or something.

        That’s OK. Sleep well Steve, oh, and don’t forget to cover your belly button, or the thunder demon will eat it (look at frogs) – Do you know this expression?

      • Steve Jackman

        KenjiAd, no trolling, please. I have made absolutely NO edits to my original comment. You seem to be losing it, so give it a rest.

      • KenjiAd

        Nice editing of the original post on which I commented, Steve. lol

        Still, Frank Lloyd Wright has absolutely nothing to do with the Orioles Stadium in any form or shape, as he was DEAD 30 years before the stadium was built. You probably did some lousy Internet search or something.

        That’s OK. Sleep well Steve, oh, and don’t forget to cover your belly button, or the thunder demon will eat it (look at frogs) – Do you know this expression?

  • http://registeredalien.weebly.com gpiper

    Stadiums by Ikea. At this late stage we have to settle for this. That’s what it is – a settlement – rather than a proud architectural accomplishment. Oh, the shame! Oh, the humanity!

  • Liars N. Fools

    Bland, bland, bland.

  • 108

    My question remains unanswered by you, Steve Jackman or Hadid herself: How come you choose a Non-Japanese professional if you don’t want one.
    I did read Hadid’s words on The Guardian and elsewhere before commenting; I can understand she’s not happy about the outcome of it, and that she’s pointing fingers at some rivals, but the “R-card” is always the easy way. Well, it just doesn’t make any sense.

    • Steve Jackman

      The answer is simple. Everyone makes a mistake once in a while – it’s called kuuki yomenai in Japanese, which means “can’t read the air”. The message is loud and clear this time and the problem has now been fixed. All future Japanese judges of design competitions will make sure they don’t vote for designs submitted by foreign parties in the future. That’s how things work in Japan.

  • jcbinok

    Surprise, surprise, a Japanese person won the design contest the second time around.

  • jcbinok

    “Futsu desu ne.”
    – my close Japanese friend

  • jcbinok

    “Futsu desu ne.”
    – my close Japanese friend

  • zzzxtreme

    Toyo Ito’s design looks very grand. I can understand why Kuma’s design was selected. Blends with the surrounding