Tokyo Is Rethinking Its Gargantuan Olympic Stadium

A coalition of Japanese architects have said what everyone else was too polite to say: That Zaha Hadid-designed stadium is just too big, too expensive, and too impractical. Japanese officials have announced plans to scale back the design, which would cost $3.1 billion to build according to a recent budget update.

For reference, that’s more than twice the cost of the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. It’s also a $2.6 billion more than the aquatic center Hadid built for the London Olympics. It was on course to become arguably the most expensive stadium ever built, in fact. All this for an Olympic bid that was sold as a more sustainable, smaller economic burden. In addition to its sheer size—at 80,000 seats—the cost is, in part, due to a gigantic retractable roof (which would have been a first amongst Olympic venues).

The cost and size help to explain the protests of dozens of architects and city advocates, including a handful of Pritzker Prize architects. The comments themselves are delightfully polite—a few highlights:

  • “I understand Ms. Hadid’s futuristic design creates strong impressions. But we are hoping the building will last for the next 50 years and will be capable of hosting large-scale international competitions in 20 and 30 years.” [Yoshitaka Takasaki, Japan Sports Council]
  • "I hope that this protest is successful in shrinking the design to fit the context. I'm not fighting Zaha. The competition for the stadium was very rigorous and we can't overturn everything. But the design could be better." [Architect Sou Fujimoto]
  • "The problems I see with the planned stadium all relate to the issue of scale. 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.” [Architect Fumihiko Maki]

Those might seem like glancing criticisms, but today the Olympics Minister announced today that the organization is scaling the building back, saying "We need to rethink this to scale it down. Urban planning must meet people’s needs.” What exactly that will mean, though, it yet to come. [Washington Post]

Tokyo Is Rethinking Its Gargantuan Olympic Stadium