New National Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects

Architect Zaha Hadid’s design for Japan’s New National Stadium beat out 10 other finalists to become the centerpiece of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, but a group of 100 architects are pushing back.

12/01/2013 By Adam Moore
Photography courtesy of Japan Sport Council

Architect Zaha Hadid's massive, futuristic design for Japan's New National Stadium beat out 10 other finalists in late 2012 to become the centerpiece of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, but if a group of 100 architects led by Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki have their way, the fight over the stadium's final design may just be getting started.

The group has taken issue not with the look of the stadium itself, but its massive scale and projected cost. The design from Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) is capable of seating 80,000 spectators and includes 290,000 square meters of floor space—a total that, according to Japan's Kyodo News Agency, is about 5.6 times larger than the existing National Stadium, which was built for the 1964 Games. Originally estimated to cost $1.3 billion, construction and infrastructure investments around the new stadium have since pushed the price tag to $3 billion.

The New National Stadium will also be squeezed into a narrow site in the popular Meiji Jingu Faien park, leading to concern that it will overshadow the landscape and nearby institutions such as the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, the Meiji Jingu Stadium and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium (designed by Maki).

"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," Maki told the Associated Press in October.

Maki and his group have asked government leaders to scale down the stadium in a formal petition, so the project would be "more appropriate for an aging society with a declining population," according to Kyodo News. They have also requested that the capacity be reduced from 80,000 to 50,000 permanent seats.

Hakubun Shimomura, Japan's minister of education, sports and science, recently told Parliament that $3 billion was "too massive of a budget" for the project, and has pledged to slash costs by nearly half while retaining the overall design concept, although no specifics were provided on how that would be accomplished. ZHA did not return our requests for comment on the possible changes.

The project was originally scheduled for completion in 2018, ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. What will happen to Hadid's ambitious backdrop for the 2020 Games is now anyone's guess.

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