Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition

| 31 comments

Japanese officials have selected a wooden lattice design by Kengo Kuma for the new National Stadium in Tokyo, which will be the centrepiece for the 2020 Olympics.

According to local sources, the decision to award the job to Kuma – one of Japan's leading architects – was announced this morning in a government cabinet meeting.

Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition

His design had been revealed just days before as one of two finalists in a new competition organised after the Japanese prime minister scrapped plans for a stadium design by British architect Zaha Hadid.

The other design in contention was created by Toyo Ito, another of Japan's most famous contemporary architects.

Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition

Both designs had officially been presented anonymously, but commentators were quick to match the names to the schemes based on the style of each architect.



Kuma, who is known for his use of natural materials, created an oval design with a latticed framework that appears to be made at least partly from wood. Circulation areas around the edge of each level also feature plants and trees and exposed terraces.

Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition

Ito's design favoured modern materials, with an undulating ring of transparent roofing around the roof's central opening.

The designs were assessed by a review panel assembled by the Japan Sport Council, which included architecture and landscape design professionals.

Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition

According to the Japan Times "Japanese-ness" was a key factor in choosing the winning design. Panellists were also asked to grade each proposal on cost and expected construction time.

The budget for the stadium is ¥155 billion. Japan has just over four years to finalise and build the winning design.

Hadid's scheme, which her firm won through an international competition and had worked on for two years, was scrapped by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in July. He blamed spiralling costs for the decision, but also said he had been listening to popular opinion.

Both Ito and Kuma had been among the Japanese architects who protested against Hadid's stadium design.

"They don't want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium," Hadid told Dezeen, describing the Japanese architects that were opposing her design as "hypocrites".

Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition

Hadid said that her firm's own warnings about costs had been ignored by Japanese officials, and that she had offered to revise her plans to make sure the stadium could be delivered in time for the Olympics. The design had already been scaled back in 2014 following criticisms over scale and cost.

Architect Richard Rogers, who was on the jury that originally selected Hadid's design, said the decision would result in a poorer quality stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and damage Japan's credibility.

  • Unimpressed

    Japan lacks ambition. The nation has revealed itself to be conformist.

    • cho cho

      Japan long passed the stage where it needs a foreign stararchitect to confirm their status as an advanced country. Sorry they disappointed you. There is always an oligarch-run central Asian republic you can go and visit if you feel the need to see “ambition.”

    • Living in Japan

      You are on point 100%.

    • Erling Garriock

      The nation IS conformist and makes no effort to deny it. One incredibly common saying there is “the nail that sticks up must be hammered down”. This design feels like an appropriate representation of the country as they wish to be known. Hadid’s stadium was cool but much more showboat-y than the national image, which is incredibly reserved.

  • Jordan

    I know Hadid’s stadium was over budget, but her design was something special, unique and thinking outside of the box. It could have been something that Japan could have shown off but the selected stadium in a word is, ordinary.

    • Mario Bogo

      Excactly. That is the right word: ordinary.

    • CharlieBrown

      Maybe you’re trolling but could you elaborate on how it was thinking outside of the box.

    • jrbsdcal

      You say Hadid was something special, but it’s begging for attention. Ordinary and humble is more like the Japanese character, where bragging and showboating is regarded as a bad characteristic. Nature and wood is timeless, spaceships are dead.

      • Roger That

        Not in the future they’re not!

    • Hohenheim

      I think it is quite an overstatement to say Zaha’s stadium was unique considering how similar it is to the one she’s building in Qatar.

      Regarding Kengo Kuma’s stadium, I would be surprised if the final result is ordinary considering the kind of architectural quality he’s been demonstrating for a few years now. His projects might not be about big extravagant gestures but are rather subtle and exquisitely detailed. That’s what architecture’s all about.

      • dosssse

        Kengo Kuma is a pretentious jealous hack.

  • JayCee

    Bravo Kuma. This appears rather nice. One can actually see the Japanese roots within its form. Japan clearly does not need overpriced and overhyped divas to crash-land their un-contextual sexual spaceships.

    • Durgen Jensen

      Sexual spaceship. Funny!

  • vincentius

    Stadiums can be built super cheap nowadays. If budget was really the issue, then just throw out any ambition for a landmark Olympic icon or starchitect design.

    For a two-week event that is driven mainly by corporate advertising instead of the original intent of peace and gathering, taxpayers’ should not be on the hook for anything more than a bare-bones design build or P3 delivery.

    This new design by Kuma can still be value engineered dramatically. Would anyone complain if Japan just rolled in some portable spectator stands and parked them in a circle around a track?

  • James Maxwell

    The only “remarkable similarities” I can see are that it’s a stadium in Japan. Kuma should have won the project to begin with.

  • Durgen Jensen

    It needs a closer rendering so we can see the wood up close!

  • The_Pinchhitter

    Lovely design, but Kuma’s firm should show us more (and better quality) renderings and animations/videos, sections, etc.

  • Guest

    Rationality finally returned, not to mention form, function and affordability.

  • laven87

    Ito’s design is not very inspiring in my opinion. Pillars? And this was his second attempt!

  • Jaron

    This is just so appallingly boring. The spaces are dull and uninspired. The scale feels wrong – an enormous donut with these tiny pieces of repetitive wood everywhere and toothpick columns lining the perimeter.

    And I don’t think just because it has wood and some bushes that it is automatically Japanese or contextual.

  • Vasco Lima Mayer

    Having written about Japanese architecture in my master thesis where I had to study the Japanese culture deeply, I can truly claim that Hadid’s stadium not only had nothing to do with the Japanese culture but also was its complete opposite.

    This news was a big relief for the world architecture. Kuma’s stadium is definitely a Japanese stadium.

  • Johan Perezco

    This design is so boring. I think that the Japanese government could commission a design to architects like Herzog and de Meuron, who always surprise us with their designs.

    • jrbsdcal

      Japan doesn’t need to beg for attention. This seems very Japanese, and a perfect fit.

      • Concerned Architect

        Did people realise that by doing another episode of a competition-scrapping-Japanese-only competition that it would bring more attention than just building the ZHA stadium? I think they did this on purpose for free marketing. Oh, and the logo plagiarism. More free marketing.

      • Roger That

        Then why are they hosting the Olympics?

  • Le Visiteur

    At least it looks like a real stadium, and fits nicely in the environment. The use of wood could be a first time for a stadium that size.

    The former project had the shape of a duck, which was weird. This one is less formal, making better use of the ressources. The Japanese made a wise choice of simplicity and beauty.

  • spadestick

    Now where is Godzilla when we want him around?

  • Egad

    Kuma = boring.

  • Naj-Boogie

    I’m just grateful Hadid didn’t get this. I don’t care what the winning stadium looks like, as long as it wasn’t hers. But for the record I do like the winner. Looking forward to more detailed shots.

  • Hiren

    Maybe this is better!

  • JEng

    Big Mac.