Zaha Hadid Architects have hit back at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to scrap their plan for the new National Stadium in Tokyo, insisting the ambitious design was not responsible for spiraling construction costs.
Abe on Friday pulled the plug on Pritzker Prize-winning architect Hadid’s design for the new stadium amid a growing public backlash, after estimated construction outlays soared from an initial ¥130 billion to ¥252 billion.
Japan will now be unable to fulfill its promise to stage 2019 Rugby World Cup matches — including the opening game and the final — at the venue, although Abe insists the new stadium will be finished in time for the 2020 Olympics.
The Japan Sport Council, which is in charge of overseeing the project, earlier this month blamed British-Iraqi architect Hadid’s extravagant design for the rising construction costs, claiming only a limited number of contractors would be able to tackle the project.
The plan features two vast “keel arches” forming the backbone of the roof, and JSC board members estimated that the skills needed to build special components for the overall design would account for ¥76.5 billion of the costs alone.
But Hadid’s firm Friday defended the design and claimed that the rising costs of materials and the fixed deadline for completion are the real reasons behind the inflated price tag.
“It is not the case that the recently reported cost increases are due to the design, which uses standard materials and techniques well within the capability of Japanese contractors and meets the budget set by the Japan Sport Council,” the London-based company said in a statement. “The real challenge for the stadium has been agreeing an acceptable construction cost against the backdrop of steep annual increases in construction costs in Tokyo and a fixed deadline.”
Abe on Friday announced that the plans will be sent back to the drawing board, drawing the ire of World Rugby’s governing body, which said it is “urgently seeking further detailed clarification.”
Tokyo 2020 organizing committee Chairman Yoshiro Mori, who until last month was also president of the Japan Rugby Football Union, had promised World Rugby officials that Japan would build an entirely new stadium in Tokyo to host matches at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“Our teams in Japan and the U.K. have been working hard with the Japan Sport Council to design a new National Stadium that would be ready to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, the Tokyo 2020 Games and meet the need for a new home for Japanese sport for the next 50 to 100 years,” Hadid’s company said in its statement.
“It is absolutely right that the benefits and costs of the new National Stadium should be clearly and accurately communicated and understood by the public and decision-makers in Japan and we hope that this is one of the objectives of the review announced by the prime minister.
“We have used our experience on major sports and cultural projects, including the hugely successful London 2012 Games and legacy, to design a stadium that can be built cost-effectively and still deliver the flexible and robust National Stadium that the Japan Sport Council requires.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced Friday that a new design will be chosen within six months.
Hadid’s blueprint has proved hugely controversial since it was chosen in a restricted-entry competition in 2012.
Fierce criticism from noted local architects, who variously described the design as “a disgrace” and “like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so it can swim away,” last year forced Hadid’s firm to reduce the height of the structure after the government slashed the project’s budget.
Mori on Friday backed Abe’s decision and revealed that he had “hated” Hadid’s design — which he likened to “a raw oyster” — from the start.
Hadid’s work, which includes the swimming venue built for the 2012 London Olympics, has divided opinion elsewhere, with a design for a stadium to host matches at the 2022 soccer World Cup in Qatar drawing similar criticism.
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