TOKYO – A prominent Japanese architect is campaigning to reduce the size of the spaceship-like main stadium approved for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, saying it’s too expensive and would clash with its surroundings.
Fumihiko Maki, who has designed some spectacular buildings of his own, says he’s not criticizing the design of the stadium by award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, just the size. His office says he has the support of 100 other well-known people in Japan, including architects.
“The problems I see with the planned stadium all relate to the issue of scale,” Maki said in a statement this week.
Both the Tokyo and national governments have already approved the stadium, but construction isn’t slated to begin until next year.
The 130 billion yen ($1.3 billion), 80,000-seat stadium, with an arching retractable roof, would be built on the site of the smaller 54,000-seat main stadium for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It would dwarf one of Maki’s nearby creations: the 1990 Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
The site sits in the middle of a downtown Tokyo park within walking distance of shopping malls, high-rise buildings, a Shinto shrine and a famous venue designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Games.
Jim Heverin, a director at London-based Zaha Hadid Architects, argues the area is already a mix of big and small, as well as styles, so the futuristic construct will fit right in. It can also be used for music concerts and a wide variety of events, he said.
“The venue is much more flexible and will get used more,” Heverin said in a phone interview.
He acknowledged the new design will occupy more land, but said the new stadium would include greenery.
The structure will better blend with the environment with walkways, open 24 hours, to allow people to use the space, instead of experiencing the building as an obstruction, Heverin said.
Tokyo city hall said it had yet to receive an official complaint from Maki, and had no comment.
Yoshitaka Takasaki, spokesman for the Japan Sports Council, which is in charge of the stadium construction, said the design was part of Tokyo city planning and approved by the central government in June.
“Basically all the concerns raised have already been addressed,” Takasaki said. “We have nothing more to say.”
He wants the design reworked to “a more sustainable stadium for the Japanese people.”
“The damaging effects on the historical scenery, the safety concerns for unexpected natural disaster evacuation on a limited site, and the exorbitant construction and management costs are all reasons to question the size of the building,” he said.
Heverin dismissed the evacuation fears, saying addressing such concerns is a basic need for any modern building.
“That’s not going to be an issue. It will be achieved,” he said.
Architect Sou Fujimoto, one of the 100 who agree with Maki’s position, suggested a compromise, with the features for the new stadium being trimmed and the job of reworking the design going to Zaha Hadid.
“We should think about what kind of city we want for the future, what kind of Japan we want for the future,” he said.
Heverin also welcomed the debate. “Design is subjective,” he said.
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