New paradigm for the Olympics

Regarding the June 2 Reuters article “Architect blasts new Tokyo Olympics stadium as ‘a sin, a crime’ “: The pleas by the Japan Sports Council and by architect Edward Suzuki do not really contain in my mind a reasonable and convincing critique of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stadium as proposed by Zaha Hadid, nor do they provide an acceptable alternative design proposal. Nothing less than a paradigm shift of 21st-century Olympic architecture is required.

Since the Olympic Games were internationalized in 1896, they continue to be held every four years but at different locations and in different nations, and each time in completely different, new physical structures. Their ever-more massive and permanent architecture has become a symbol of the ego and pride of the host country. Financed and regarded as quasi-national monuments, they still follow the architectural paradigm of the Roman Colosseum.

The demands of national economics and local urban sustainability suggest that the designs of all sports structures, and of their housing facilities, should be designed for easy assembly and use, disassembly after use, and shipment to the location of the next games — somewhat like a circus. In the aftermath of the 2012 London Olympics and earlier games, we can hardly expect Hadid’s stadium, after its use during the Tokyo Games, to be used to capacity again. There is still no final plan for the Olympics Stadium in London.

Also, the costs of Olympic facilities could be shared by several host countries and spread over at least four successive Olympic Games and other international sports events. That would result in an enormous reduction in costs. There would be no difficulty in constructing seating that is light, safe and movable. Disassembly of Olympic facilities would again make the areas available for other urban purposes. Its environmental impact in the city would be minimized, and that would add to the games’ social acceptability.

Hadid’s proposal does not indicate how the stadium would create its own energy from the sun and/or other renewable energy sources, as is normally required by publicly funded buildings worldwide. Olympic architecture from now on should express a sense of communion and respect for the earth as a whole and the local environment it is in.

To produce a joyous atmosphere, we suggest that the main roof for the stadium be a tentlike structure suspended from brightly colored balloons filled with methane. The balloons would float freely above the stadium and be anchored to the ground by ropes. The vast surfaces of the roof should be outfitted with solar cells to make the stadium self-sustainable in terms of energy — expressing a positive relationship, structurally and visually, with the sun and the sky.

Indeed, a partnership with nature should be the main theme of all architecture from now on.

guenter nitschke
kyoto

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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