Tokyo Olympic stadium designer strikes back at critics

AP, Staff Report

The architects behind the scrapped plan for the new National Stadium blamed the bidding process and rocketing building costs for the spiraling price tag, striking back at claims that it was because of the design.

Zaha Hadid Architects said the contractors were chosen before they submitted cost estimates in a two-stage tender process. The cost rose to ¥252 billion yen, nearly double the original estimate, and more expensive than any sports stadium ever built.

“Our warning was not heeded that selecting contractors too early in a heated construction market, and without sufficient competition, would lead to an overly high estimate of the cost of construction,” the architects said in a lengthy statement issued from their London office Tuesday.

The Abe administration tossed out the plan this month amid mounting public criticism of the cost, and said it would start a new competition for the design and construction of the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Construction was due to start in October, and the delay means the stadium will not be ready for the Rugby World Cup in 2019, as envisioned.

The Japan Sport Council (JSC), the body overseeing the new National Stadium project, attributed about one-third of the increase in price to rising labor and materials costs, and two-thirds to the unusual design by Zaha Hadid.

But Hadid’s office struck back: “Our teams in Japan and the U.K. feel it is necessary to set the record straight,” the statement said.

Since Hadid’s office won a design competition in 2012, a joint venture of leading Japanese design offices, with Hadid’s office supervising the design, has dedicated thousands of hours to develop a design for the stadium to the requirements and budget for the JSC, the statement continued.

“At every stage over the two years of development, the design and budget estimates were approved by the JSC. ZHA worked proactively to reduce the estimated cost throughout,” the statement said, stressing it is wrong to accuse Hadid’s design as the prime factor of the stadium’s ballooning costs.

Instead, Hadid’s office criticized the “absence of any international competition” and “early selection of a limited number of construction contractors” as major reasons for the spiraling cost.

Shota Miyazaki, a spokesman for the JSC, said it stands by its conclusion that the surge in the cost estimate was mainly due to the design and rising construction costs.

Zaha Hadid said it learned of the cancellation of the deal through news reports, and received a brief official notification from the Japan Sport Council afterward.

Miyazaki confirmed the council canceled the contract on July 17, the day the government announced it publicly, and said there has been no counter-proposal or other offer from the Zaha Hadid office since.

Meanwhile, Hadid’s office expressed its interest in its continued involvement in redesigning the new stadium.

“ZHA remain committed to a flexible and cost-effective new National Stadium that would be ready to welcome the world to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and become a new home for sport in Japan for many generations to come,” the statement said.

The full version of the statement can be found on the architect firm’s website.