National

Kengo Kuma, architect picked to design Tokyo's new Olympic stadium, is highly regarded in his field

Staff Report

Kengo Kuma, whose design was picked Tuesday for Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium, is one of Japan’s best known architects.

Maintaining offices in Tokyo and Paris, he has completed major projects in Japan, China and France.

In Tokyo, his most famous buildings are the Nezu Museum, Suntory Museum of Art and the Capitol Hotel Tokyu. In France, he designed the Besancon Art Center and Cite de la Musique in 2012.

Born in Yokohama in 1954, Kuma graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Tokyo in 1979 before joining the Tokyo-based corporate architectural firm Nihon Sekkei Inc.

Determined to work for himself, he quit in 1985, spent two years researching at Columbia University in New York and then returned to Japan to set up his own Spatial Design Studio in 1987 and Kengo Kuma & Associates in 1990.

Kuma has a reputation as a safe pair of hands with potentially controversial projects. When rebuilding the iconic Kabukiza in Tokyo, he succeeded not only in retaining the feel of the original, richly ornate theater but also in adding, in accordance with owner Shochiku’s wishes, a new 29-story office building at the same site. The resulting complex was warmly received.

Currently serving as a professor at the University of Tokyo, Kuma is active as both a practitioner and theorist of his trade. He believes buildings should blend in with their surroundings rather than attempt to dominate them. He also champions the use of natural materials, such as wood and stone.

Kuma is often described as a contender for the Pritzker Architecture Prize, but the award, known as his profession’s Nobel, has so far eluded him.