Zaha Hadid claims Japan ‘colluded’ in new National Stadium design

The architect says the selection process was 'restricted' and closed 'the doors on the project to the world'

A profile view of a rendering of the winning design for the national stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
A profile view of a rendering of the winning design for the National Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (Japan Sport Council)

TOKYO (TR) – Following the selection on Tuesday of the winning design for the National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games, firm Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) slammed the choice, saying that collusion lead to the rejection of their original submission, which had previously been cancelled due to projected budget overruns.

“Sadly the Japanese authorities, with the support of some of those from our own profession in Japan, have colluded to close the doors on the project to the world,” the office said in a statement posted on its Web site on Tuesday.

The winning design was submitted by construction company Taisei and planning firm Asusa Sekkei as a joint venture. The design, credited to architect Kengo Kuma, features an oval stadium of multiple tiers separated by greenery. It competed against a submission by contractors Takenaka, Shimizu and Obayashi.

The originally selected design by ZHA, the London-based firm headed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, was a key element in Tokyo’s bid submission for the Games in 2013. However, the design, consisting of a sweeping and undulating roof, was scrapped in July after the cost of the project was revised upward to 252 billion yen, a large increase over the estimated 130-billion-yen figure that was accepted by the Japan Sport Council (JSC) in 2012.

The budget for the winning design is estimated to be 153 billion yen.

“I expect the winning companies to build a new National Stadium that can win trust from the world and people in Japan by taking full advantage of Japanese technologies and finishing the construction on time,” said Olympic minister Toshiaki Endo, according to the Japan Times (Dec. 22).

However, ZHA maintains that the chosen design incorporates many elements of its original submission. In a file uploaded to its site, the firm insinuates that the concepts for the seating design were copied by the winning joint venture, whose members were a part of the original ZHA team.

“Taisei were contracted to deliver the ‘sunken bowl’ of the original ZHA/Arup design (seating, access strategy, etc) and, along with Azusa, had access to all of the detailed drawings, plans and work carried out over 2 years by the original design team,” ZHA said.

The company also says proposed cost-cutting procedures were duplicated in the brief used by the Japan Sport Council (JSC) for the new competition, including a reduction in permanent seating capacity from 80,000 to 68,000, the cutting the retractable roof and the removal of a number of other facilities.

“When ZHA proposed these changes they were rejected by the client and the team was eventually instructed to cease proposing cost-saving solutions,” ZHA said.

ZHA said that participation in the new competition was “restricted” without elaborating.

“This shocking treatment of an international design and engineering team, as well as the respected Japanese design companies with whom we worked, was not about design or budget,” ZHA said. “In fact, much of our two years of detailed design work and the cost savings we recommended have been validated by the remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration with those of the design announced today,” ZHA said.

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