The National Stadium, the main venue for the ongoing Tokyo Paralympics, was built with input from many parts of society, such as people with disabilities, to achieve a world-class universal design.
In the initial 2014 plan for the stadium by the late architect Zaha Hadid, there were 120 seats for people in wheelchairs, or 0.15% of capacity. The figure was significantly below International Paralympic Committee standards, but a revision was difficult as the basic design had already been done.
After Hadid's design was scrapped for cost reasons in 2015, 14 groups such as those representing people with disabilities, older people and people raising children became involved in designing its replacement.
Twenty-one workshops were held through 2019 to create a design that meets the needs of all the groups.
For example, studded paving blocks are needed to help those with visual impairments but are often obstacles for people in wheelchairs. The two sides' needs were balanced by reducing the height of such blocks to 2.5 millimeters, half the usual level.
Five types of multifunctional restrooms and some 500 seats for people in wheelchairs were installed.
The stadium also includes a "calm down, cool down room" for helping people with intellectual and mental disabilities to relax.
"In a time of respecting individuals, what is important is not only the number of facilities (for people with disabilities) but also whether the design was made to be easy to use for all," said Hisao Kawano, head of design for the National Stadium at Taisei Corp.
Kawano said that he learned many new things from the process of receiving input over the design of the National Stadium.
"The era of unilaterally imposing designs is over," said Kawano, who has long been in charge of construction of stadiums at the general contractor. "Architects are now required to coordinate a variety of opinions."
"In order to make a legacy, we need to make a system to share what we have learned (from the designing process) with the whole society," said Yoshihiko Kawauchi, a researcher on universal design at Toyo University.
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