A revised design for the main Tokyo Olympic stadium is nothing more than a “white elephant” that’s been stripped of its original designer’s artistic talent and will forever burden the capital if built, internationally renowned architect Arata Isozaki said.
In a statement made available to the media Wednesday, the 83-year-old Isozaki said he was “shocked” to see the revised version of the replica of New National Stadium Japan, which is currently on display at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku.
Isozaki, who has designed Olympic venues himself in the past, went so far as to liken the proposed structure to “a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away.”
“The sight left me in despair,” he wrote. “If the stadium gets built the way it is, Tokyo will surely be burdened with a gigantic white elephant.”
He said the architect originally tasked with the project, Zaha Hadid, should be commissioned to redesign the facility altogether.
A Baghdad-born British architect, Hadid won an international competition to design the stadium in November 2012. Her iconoclastic spaceship-like design, however, spurred widespread debate about whether it was financially feasible.
The Japan Sport Council (JSC), which is overseeing the project, unveiled a revised design at the end of May which involved a much smaller structure in an apparent bid to cut costs.
Despite its scaled-down size, the revised version, Isozaki said, is still far from sustainable and is doomed to cost the capital a fortune in maintenance costs after the Olympics are over.
This, coupled with its ugliness, means the revision “satisfies nobody,” he said.
After seeing the design at the gallery, “I got the impression that the revised proposal was made as a result of a lot of pressure from various sides in Japan, and it doesn’t fully reflect Zaha’s talent, but rather, it has ruined it,” Isozaki told The Japan Times.
According to Hadid’s agent, the stadium’s design has been devised in close consultation with her company’s Japanese partners and after heeding opinions by its clients, including the JSC.
“We were aware of Mr. Isozaki’s thoughts on this matter, and as with all opinions on both sides of the discussion, we respect Mr. Isozaki’s right to express his views,” Zaha Hadid Architects said in an email.
The JSC declined to comment.
Isozaki, who said he has worked with Hadid several times, is adamant that the architect be commissioned to redesign the stadium from scratch. He said he believes Hadid is capable of concocting something that’s both mindful of criticism voiced over the past two years and still aesthetically appealing.
To make the stadium more financially viable, Isozaki argued that it should only be big enough to accommodate spectators for sports events and doesn’t need to take into consideration the opening ceremony, which he suggested could be held at a different location.
“So whatever she might need to come up with, the outcome will likely have to be even smaller and lighter (than the current proposal),” he said. “But given her talent, I believe she can think of something entirely on a different level.”
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