Olympics 2020: National Stadium designed by Kengo Kuma opens in Tokyo
Tokyo’s new National Stadium was inaugurated Sunday, as Japan continues its countdown to the 2020 Summer Games.
The recently completed venue was officially unveiled in a ceremony attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the renowned architect behind the project, Kengo Kuma.
Costing around 157 billion yen ($1.4 billion), the 68,000-seat arena will host the opening and closing ceremonies in the Olympics and Paralympics. Additionally, it will be used for football matches and respective track-and-field events during the Games.
Kuma, who’s well known for his use of organic substances, said he switched to traditional Japanese architecture and the surroundings for inspiration. His oval-shaped design features three tiers of chairs beneath a partly coated roof made from steel and latticed wood.
The architect sourced over 70,000 cubic feet of wood — from each of the nation’s 47 prefectures — to the stadium.
“The Olympics always becomes a sign for the age, so with all the 2020 Olympics, we wanted to make something which captures the people’s ideas about the environment or the Earth at the moment,” he told CNN in an interview in June. “We thought that the ideal material for this age would be timber.”
At Sunday’s ceremony, Abe praised the design for attaining”harmony with the surrounding environment and a Japanese character.” However, as recently as 2015, the new National Stadium could have looked radically different.
A futuristic design by the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid had originally been chosen, though Japan’s Olympic organizers finally scrapped the plan amid spiraling prices and high-profile criticisms. Celebrated architect Arata Isozaki described Hadid’s design as a “disgrace to future generations.”
The reins were subsequently passed to 65-year-old Kuma, and he set about reimagining the job in his characteristically organic style. The architect stated that his arena design was partly inspired by Tokyo’s Edo-period temples.
“All around the world, architecture in the 20th century which uses steel and concrete feels stiff and cold. I need to make it softer, kinder, warmer,” said Kuma, whose company designed the place alongside architecture company Azusa Sekkei. “I believe that’s the sort of architecture that people need, during this stressful age.”
His final layout — which replaces the present National Stadium, constructed in the 1950s — features big roof eaves that promote air to circulate, allowing the breeze to enter the scene during hot weather. It’s found in the Meiji Jingu Gaien Park, which Kuma described as”the greenest place in Tokyo.”
“Of course, we would prefer both athletes and spectators to enjoy the scene, but at exactly the exact same time we thought of something we could add to the community,” Kuma said, highlighting the pedestrianized areas he designed around the construction. “We have designed a place where everybody in the area can enjoy a stroll there,” he added.
The overdue switch of layout meant that construction on the stadium didn’t start until overdue 2016. Therefore, plans for the place to host games in the recent Rugby World Cup have been canceled.
The place will rather open to the public for the first time Saturday, with a launch event starring former sprinter Usain Bolt. It will then host a series of test events before the Games, starting with the closing of Japan’s Emperor’s Cup football tournament on New Year’s Day. Following the Olympics, the National Stadium will serve as a new home for Japan’s football and rugby teams.