Construction of Tokyo’s Olympic stadium will proceed without design changes

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

The Japanese government has decided to keep the existing design for the 2020 Olympic stadium in Tokyo despite massive construction costs and its criticized “bicycle helmet” design.

The design by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid drew sharp criticism from her Japanese counterparts for being too big and costly. But the government has decided making a drastic change to the design would lead to a delay in construction, Kyodo News reported Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

Hadid told The Guardian, “The scheme is the result of three decades of research into Japanese architecture and urbanism,” and promises it will be an “integral element of Tokyo’s urban fabric, directly engaging with the surrounding cityscape.”

However, opponents criticized the structure for its resemblance to a “gigantic bicycle helmet” and described its placement in the gardens of Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine as “grossly out of context.”

Rival groups, including Nobuko Shimizu, who is Chair of the Custodians of the National Stadium group, had proposed design alternatives and battled to save the existing venue which hosted the 1964 Olympics.

“There are very few events that will require such a massive stadium, one that blights one of Tokyo’s greenbelts. For a fraction of the cost, they could have retrofitted the old stadium that requires far less maintenance than the new facility.” Jeff Kingston, an Asian studies professor at Tokyo’s Temple University, told CNN.

Shimizu described the new stadium to The Guardian as “a mammoth totally out of sync with its verdant surroundings.”

Two massive arches that form the backbone of the stadium’s roof, a feature that critics blamed for raising construction costs, will remain part of the design.

To slash construction and other costs, officials have proposed delaying the building of a retractable roof until after the Olympics and making some 15,000 out of the 80,000 spectator seats temporary.

In a statement, Zaha Hadid’s practice told The Guardian “All projects around the world go through this process of design evolution. The stadium’s scheme design has been developed with our Japanese partners and responds to the revised brief issued by the client earlier this year.”

They added the design requires no construction works or redevelopment costs for use after 2020, when it will be used for “the widest variety of sporting, cultural and community events.”

Construction is expected to begin in October, and the stadium is expected to be completed in time for the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

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