Hadid alleges collusion in Olympic stadium debacle, slams ‘shocking’ treatment


Architect Zaha Hadid, whose design for the new National Stadium was scrapped over sky-high costs, has lashed out at a replacement chosen Tuesday. She alleged collusion by authorities and Japanese architects to kill off her project.

A blueprint by rival Kengo Kuma was picked after a storm over the ¥265 billion cost of Hadid’s futuristic design, which would have been the world’s most expensive sports venue.

“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 in a statement.

“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.

“Work would already be under way building the stadium if the original design team had simply been able to develop this original design, avoiding the increased costs of an 18-month delay and risk that it may not be ready in time for the 2020 Games.”

Indeed, when Kuma’s design, to be built by a joint venture led by construction giant Taisei Corp., was named the winner, the chairman of the selection committee, Shuzo Murakami, said time was a critical consideration.

“There was no concern over that plan not being finished quickly,” Murakami said. “However, with (the competing design), the possibility of delays existed.”

Two new plans, with sharply lower cost estimates than Hadid’s, were short-listed last week by the Japan Sport Council, which is overseeing the project.

After deliberations, the JSC chose the slightly cheaper of the two, with an estimated cost of ¥149 billion.

Construction of the 68,000-seat stadium is to be completed in November 2019, ahead of the January 2020 deadline demanded by the International Olympic Committee. Tokyo is due to host the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics on July 24 that year.

  • GBR48

    Hadid’s design was ridiculously expensive and way too big for repurposing. It was a massive tribute to her own ego in a profession desperately short on humility. Common sense prevailed and it was dumped. The alternative is smaller, cheaper, greener, incorporates more vernacular elements and is more suited to its location.

    Hadid should get over herself.

    • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

      It i wrong to blame it on Hadid et. al., and add personal insult. They proposed a design based on the parameters supplied by the selection committee, and succeeded because the committee said they wanted it. A public apology from the committee would not be amiss.

      “The alternative is smaller, cheaper, greener, incorporates more vernacular elements and is more suited to its location.” – sounds right to me.

      • GBR48

        A responsible surgeon should never attempt a procedure on a patient if they know it will kill them, even if they are offered money to do it. Likewise, a responsible architect should not put forward a plan of a building that will fail, even if they are asked to work within parameters that will ensure that it will.

        The original design was too large to repurpose without spending a huge sum of money over and above the enormous amount it would already have cost. That alone would have made it a failure.

        Architects are artists. Many artists have big egos and are subject to professional arrogance-it seems to come with the territory, the artistic temperament. That doesn’t matter so much with writers and painters. A book can be left unread and a painting unviewed. Buildings are different. The toxic mix of rich, inexperienced commissioners and arrogant architects can deposit monstrous constructions into the lives of many people, who may have to pay for them as well as live with them. They should be more responsible, more humble, and consider those who will have to live with their buildings. Leading architects rarely appear to do that, and need to be rigorously taken to task for their actions.

        A agree that the original commission were at fault too. They were inept in what they asked for, and foolish in what they chose.

      • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

        I appreciate your sharing of a well thought out philosophy of architecture. It’s very convincing. I have to admit little experience or knowledge in the area – but as a layman I say your words are inspiring!

      • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

        I appreciate your sharing of a well thought out philosophy of architecture. It’s very convincing. I have to admit little experience or knowledge in the area – but as a layman I say your words are inspiring!

    • Steve Jackman

      The criticism of Zaha Hadid’s design was based entirely on Japanese nationalism, xenophobia and parochialism. Her design was far superior to the new design which looks like it belongs in an Ikea or Muji catalog.

      • GBR48

        Not every decision by every Japanese citizen is a result of xenophobia and racism. The accusation is so common in JT comments, often by white, middle-class Westerners, that some of them might consider returning home and having a chat with poor black citizens of their home nations to find out how much real prejudice their own privileged status insulated them from before they left to live in a foreign country, where they were an ethnic minority.

        Japan, despite its long-term insularity, is no different from other nations. Racism and xenophobia are fairly rampant everywhere, sadly. Look at Trump’s popularity in the US. It’s just that you only really notice it when you are on the wrong end of it.

        There is a distinction between national pride and racism or xenophobia. There is nothing wrong with the former, which is universal and common. This stadium is a signature building that will represent Japan in the eyes of the world in 2020. It is good and proper that it contains elements of Japanese vernacular and is designed by a Japanese architect. Hadid’s design represented bland globalism and excess – a design that could have been dumped into any large enough patch of land from Abu Dhabi to New York. It could have been ordered online from a website. It was far too large and took no account of the genius loci – the spirit of the place. It was also far too expensive and impossible to repurpose. There was nothing ‘right’ with it. Good riddance.

        The new design ticks all the boxes.

      • Steve Jackman

        Yes, it checks all the boxes of 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. One of the most important criteria in the revised points-based competition was Japanese-ness of the design. “Japanese-ness” is just code for designed by a Japanese architect, as opposed to the original design which was by a non-Japanese architect. It is not worthy of the Olympic stadium in the third largest economy in the world.

      • GBR48

        ‘Thinking big’ went out of fashion a couple of global financial crises ago. Sustainability is now trending.

      • Steve Jackman

        “Sustainability is now trending”. No, actually, extreme nationalism, racism, xenophobia, parochialism, insularity, thinking small and close-mindedness are trending in Japan now. Besides, there is nothing more sustainable about Kuma’s design as compared to Zaha Hadid’s design.

      • 108

        “Not every decision by every Japanese citizen is a result of xenophobia and racism.”
        Some people around here seem to be very interested in spreading that idea, I wonder why…

      • Steve Jackman

        Perhaps because they encounter Japanese racism, xenophobia and parochialism which are steeped in the belief of Nihonjinron on a daily basis, while posters like you churn out denials at 5:00 AM (as per the time stamp on your post).

  • disqus_vBekJrf7g5

    The Japan Times reported last week that as a whole, the Tokyo Olympics is already SIX TIMES over budget, so really, the Abenomics driven cost overruns on Hadids design were a drop in the ocean, and scrapping it over ‘cost considerations’ was just a rationalization for the Japanese establishment hating on an NJ designer when they’d hoped to scam the whole thing like the logo design.

    • Steve Jackman

      Cost was used just as an excuse by the Japanese to have a second design competition after the foreign architect Zaha Hadid’s design won the original competition. It is obvious that the Japanese have padded and overstated the estimated cost for her design so they can justify rejecting it. She even submitted an alternative lower cost design later which the Japanese did not take into account at all, since this was never about money, but rather based on Japanese nationalism, racism and xenophobia.

      I can also guarantee you that Kuma’s desin will exceed its estimated cost by a large margin. Even if you believe Japanese estimates for the cost of both designs, the difference is less that 1 Billion US Dollars. This is a tiny amount for a rich country like Japan. For some context, a company like Apple has over USD 200 Billion worth of cash deposits sitting in its bank accounts. You mean to say that Japan is suddenly so destitute that it cannot even afford 1/200th of the amount which Apple has sitting idly in its bank? Pathetic, indeed!