National

National Stadium architects reject reports they may be fired

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

The architects behind Tokyo’s new National Stadium have rejected reports that they may be fired from the project as criticism mounts over the building’s cost and appearance.

A weekend report in the Hochi Shimbun said Olympic chiefs were considering canceling the contract with Zaha Hadid Architects, which was chosen to design the showpiece stadium in a restricted-entry competition in 2012, unless the design could be modified to meet budget and time restrictions.

The site is currently being cleared in preparation for construction.

The Japan Sport Council (JSC), which is overseeing the project, last year forced the architects, led by Iraqi-British Pritzker Prize-winner Hadid, to scale down the design, reducing the height of the structure from 75 meters to 70 meters after the government slashed the budget from ¥300 billion to ¥169 billion.

The alterations came in the wake of fierce criticism from noted local architects who believe the 80,000-capacity arena will blight the landscape in the city’s leafy Jingu district.

These architects, who include internationally renowned Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki, have variously described the design as “a monumental mistake,” “a disgrace to future generations” and “like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so it can swim away.”

But Hadid’s firm late Monday night rejected suggestions that the JSC was about to cut ties with the company.

“Our client, the Japan Sport Council, confirms that, together with the Japanese government, they intend to retain Zaha Hadid Architects on the New National Stadium in Tokyo until completion in 2019,” the company said in a statement.

“The New National Stadium gives the people of Japan a much-needed venue of the highest standards for use by many future generations of Japan’s sporting bodies and community associations, their millions of members, participants and fans.

“The stadium’s design ensures it will be user-focused, productive and sustainable well beyond Tokyo 2020.”

The JSC confirmed Tuesday that it still plans to adhere to Hadid’s design, and will keep the distinctive 370-meter twin-arched roof that opponents have branded costly and time-consuming to build.

“We are proceeding with work based on the original design as supervised by Ms. Hadid,” a JSC spokesman said. “At the next stage we also have our own plans and that policy has not changed.”

Last month, sports minister Hakubun Shimomura hinted that the stadium’s retractable roof would not be finished in time for either the Tokyo Games or the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which Japan will host, and called for 35 percent of the stadium’s seating to be provided by a temporary structure that would eventually be removed.

But on Tuesday, a day after IOC President Thomas Bach voiced concern over the stadium project, Shimomura vowed that it will be completed on time.

“We will make sure that it will be completed in spring 2019 so that we will not lose trust from the international community,” Shimomura told a news conference.

The JSC meanwhile confirmed it is working with the aim of finishing the entire structure before the Rugby World Cup begins on Sept. 6, 2019.

“Of course we are working to finish work in time for that tournament,” the spokesman said.

Information from Kyodo added