Zaha Hadid accuses Japanese government and architects of collusion over Tokyo stadium


Zaha Hadid portrait by Mary McCartney

Zaha Hadid has accused Japanese authorities and architects of colluding over the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium project, and says that Kengo Kuma's replacement design has "remarkable similarities" to her own.

The London-based architect, who was ousted from the job in July two years after winning a competition to design the stadium, said that she had been treated shockingly.

"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," she said.

The Japan Sport Council (JSC) announced earlier today that Kengo Kuma's design will be built in Yoyogi Park to host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2020 games, as well as athletics, football and rugby events.

Hadid claims the replacement design has a similar shape and layout to her proposal, which was attacked by numerous Japanese architects including Kuma for being too big and too expensive.

Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition
Japanese officials selected Kengo Kuma's wooden lattice stadium over Toyo Ito's rival design

"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," she 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."

Work is expected to start on the stadium in 2017 and complete by November 2019. But Hadid says construction could have started already if her scheme hadn't been scrapped.

"Work would already be underway building the stadium if the original design team had simply been able to develop this original design, avoiding the increased costs of an 18-month delay and risk that it may not be ready in time for the 2020 Games," she said.

Zaha Hadid's Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium
Zaha Hadid claims that Kengo Kuma's replacement National Stadium design has the same layout and configuration as her own

Hadid won the original competition to design the stadium back in November 2012.

It came under fire from a host of Japanese architects including Toyo Ito, Sou Fujimoto and Riken Yamamoto for its scale, but was eventually scrapped because of spiralling costs.

Hadid says this rise was due to a 25 per cent rise in costs across Tokyo's construction market, and claims the authorities used costs as an excuse to swap her for a Japanese architect.

"They don't want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium," Hadid told Dezeen at the time.

Costs for the stadium began at ¥130 billion (£707.1 million) but rose to ¥252 billion (£1.37 billion) in 2015. Kuma's design team will have to work to a revised budget of ¥155 billion (£843 million).

Portrait of Zaha Hadid by Mary McCartney.

  • ellieban

    The new design is certainly more Japanese and is far better integrated with the space. Unfortunately it’s also stultifyingly safe. Hadid’s, on the other hand, is interesting and challenging but has no connection to the area around it at all: it looks like a spaceship has just landed in a clearing. Somewhere between the two there is probably a brilliant stadium.

    • Hadid has a signature style that is instantly recognisable, especially from far away. Being a grade-A starchitect afflicted with vanity, the guts of her buildings, the spaces and accommodations that people actually experience, are reduced to an afterthought. The Japanese excel in those areas.

      I’m sure a lot of officials in Japan are asking themselves “What were we thinking?”. Though the notoriety associated with this controversy will help with the media coverage when the Olympics finally begin.

      • Steve Jackman

        “The Japanese excel in those areas”. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to Japan. I live here in Japan, so can you give me an example of a single building here that you think “excels in those areas”?

        • Nicole

          I live in Japan. All of Kuma’s projects.

          • Steve Jackman

            Your comment is time stamped 3am Japan time, so that may explain its vagueness, but can you be more specific? Which of Kuma’s projects are you referring to?

          • Nicole

            Based on personal experience and from the top of my head: La Kagu, Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center, Garden Terrace Miyazaki, Cafe Kureon, Nezu Museum, Nagasaki Prefecture Art Museum, Baisoin Temple, Nasu History Museum, Ginzan Onsen Fujiya, Ryoguchiyakorekiyo Higashiyamaten, and many others I have had the privilege of experiencing in person. Do you want me to go into detail about the architectural program, flow, use of materials, etc?

          • Steve Jackman

            You’ve got to be joking about some of these. One would have to be a real Weeaboo to consider them pieces of good architecture.

          • Nicole

            Have you been to these places? I have and personally experienced them. Congratulations on avoiding the need to say anything substantial and resorting to personal attacks. I already proposed discussing these projects in depth and your response shows you are not ready to engage in any intelligent discussion. Your use of the insult weeaboo displays the vast immaturity of your mind and your intellectual capacities. I don’t think it’s useful to talk to you unless someone is preaching to your choir. Thank you, good day.

          • Chase Miller

            Weeaboo is an appropriate response to someone completely enamored by a Japanese architect regardless of the placelessness and other problems with their architecture

        • Nicole

          Many projects by many Japanese architects unpublished on Dezeen, in addition to those of Kuma. Also those of Taniguchi, probably the greatest Japanese architect practicing now.

          One would have to be blind not to recognise how many Japanese architects excel in these areas.

    • A_potato

      “Connection to the area/spaceship has landed” – terms and verbal tactics used to defend the past. This should be about connecting to a future, not about how to integrate with an everyday present.

      • Chase Miller

        Having placeless architecture is not a good thing, and for a while the architecture community came out heavily against and its discontinuity with existing, especially vernacular/culturally important architecture, it no longer does so and despite public opinion shifting away from postmodernism, all of these starchitects are still postmodernists of the worst kind

        • A_potato

          What existing context? You mean the fact she wasn’t Japanese? This was capital ‘A’ Architecture. Postmodernism is concerned with vernacular and contextual conformity so don’t get your terms mixed up.

          • Chase Miller

            None of this has any vernacular nature or contextual conformity. None of Gehry’s architecture or others does this. I mean that Japanese culture is more concerned with balanced, not over-the-top aesthetics.

    • Steve Jackman

      I don’t see anything particularly Japanese about this design, unless you consider Ikea-like design to be Japanese. As an American living in Japan for over a decade, I think the criticism of Zaha Hadid’s design was based entirely on Japanese nationalism and nothing else.

      Japan is one of the most racist and xenophobic countries in the world and many here were extremely upset that a foreigner had won the original design competition.

      As to the new design, it basically fits all the criteria by checking the boxes that are most important in Japan these days, those being:

      1) Boring/uninspired
      2) Thinking small/insularity
      3) “Japanese-ness”.

      It once again shows a total lack of imagination, creativity and originality in Japan today. Clearly, thinking small and diminished expectations have won again.

      This stadium could have been built in any country over the last fifty years. One of the most important criteria in the new points-based system for the revised competition was Japanese-ness. In reality, “Japanese-ness” is just code for designed by a Japanese architect.

      This whole selection process and stadium are not worthy of the Olympic stadium in the third-largest economy in the world.

      • jrbsdcal

        Why do Americans call everyone racist and xenophobic, especially Japanese. It’s getting tiresome. Your judging them in the same fashion as a racist would judge someone else. It’s hypocritical and you’re not being superior when you do this.

        If you don’t like Japan, then leave, no one invited you there so stop your whining. And your multi-culture Americanism is a failure. Crime and living on par with third-world countries, Americans should take care of their own garden before judging others.

        Plus xenophobia can be good, it keeps traditions and cultures alive, or do you just want everyone to be like Americans. Maybe one culture for the world where everyone is the same, I mean the only way to get rid of discrimination is for everyone to be the same. Is that what you want by calling people racist and xenophobic?

        Maybe if you left Roppongi once in a while you would realise that Japanese culture looks down on loud bragging people, unlike Americans who think credit card over confidence is a good quality.

        Plus, who cares if Japanese want a Japanese architect. Every country should want to hire their own people for their national stadiums!

        • Nicole

          Hear, hear.

          • Delbert Grady

            I agree with your review of the qualities of Kuma’s work, but you are going to wholeheartedly agree with this last post? Isn’t the result of xenophobia a pure unaffected culture? “Hire their own people”: isn’t choosing someone based on their cultural heritage, and not their work, nationalist if not racist? You can’t have it both ways.

        • Nicole

          And it’s funny how those who rail against xenophobia and racism turn out to be the most xenophobic and racist themselves. They never bother to become fluent in Japanese themselves, or integrate into their Japanese community, or make broad sweeping generalisations about the Japanese.

          • Steve Jackman

            Actually, even the United Nations has been extremely critical of widespread institutionalized racism and racial discrimination against foreigners in Japan. You can read about it in the UN’s CERD (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) report on Japan. Are you accusing the UN of being racist and xenophobic?

        • Steve Jackman

          “Why do Americans call everyone racist and xenophobic, especially Japanese.” Umm, maybe because they really are? Many people in Japan also get extremely defensive when they are called out on this, which just confirms it.

          The Japanese even have a whole genre of literature based on “Nihonjinron”, which is their belief in Japanese racial superiority and uniqueness. In other countries, it is simply called fascism.

          On top of this, before you accuse me of being judgmental, you should know that foreign residents of Japan are judged as “gaijin” and “outsiders” here in Japan on a daily basis, regardless of how many decades they may have spent living in Japan.

          As permanent outsiders they are judged to never be able to understand Japan or be part of Japanese society, since they do not belong to the Yamato race. The criticism of Zaha Hadid’s design in Japan is based very much on such racism and parochial thinking.

          • Nicole

            I live in Japan as a foreigner and I have no issues with regard to being a gaijin. I also try to speak in Japanese and try to be as fluent in the language as possible.

            I socialise more with Japanese people than native English speakers and constantly participate in neighbourhood activities and events, and I try to tamp down any unwarranted assertiveness, practice understanding as best I can, listen intently and explain if there are issues, and not let minor problems get in the way of peace of mind.

            If you are the type of expatriate who lets every conceivable slight disturb you to the point that you have become automatically suspicious of people’s intentions, let perceived micro aggressions get in the way of your quality of life, have begun to only see the Japanese and their culture in a negative light, and start to believe that you deserve a certain privilege of locals adapting to having a foreigner integrate comfortably into their society, arms wide open, when you are indeed an outsider moving into their society and they don’t owe you anything, then I’m going to give you some frank advice: go home as soon as you can. You have nothing to gain from being there and they have nothing to gain from your being there.

            It is dangerous when you begin to see individual human beings as comprising some kind of monolithic culture. Like any other country, Japan has its share of good and bad eggs, flaws and virtues. Don’t turn into the irrational angry expatriate. It’s unattractive.

          • Steve Jackman

            Before you start attacking me, perhaps you can explain how you reconcile your comment with your past posts in your Disqus history in which you disparage other ethnic groups and religions, and also justify killing whales as well as the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji, among other things.

          • Nicole

            Lol. What do whales and dolphins and intolerance of religion have to do with a discussion of architecture and your personal experience? I’m not the one we’re discussing here. What does my comment history have to do with something we’re discussing here?

            Also, clearly, I have not attacked you or insulted you in any way. You know you are resorting to fallacies of tu quoque and a strawman argument. This is very poor form. Fortunately, I don’t need to resort to digging up dirt to express my opinions here.

            Reconciled. Done. Thanks, good day, and Merry Christmas!

          • Nicole

            LOL. What do whales and dolphins and intolerance of religion have to do with a discussion of architecture and your personal experience? I’m not the one we’re discussing here. What does my comment history have to do with something we’re discussing here? Also, clearly, I have not attacked you or insulted you? You know you are resorting to fallacies of tu quoque and a strawman argument. This is very poor form. Fortunately, I don’t need to resort to digging up dirt on who I’m talking to to express my opinions here.

            Reconciled. Done. Thanks, good day, and Merry Christmas!

          • Steve Jackman

            What I am referring to is systematic and institutionalized racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia in Japan, which has nothing to do with how well a foreigner speaks Japanese.

            For example, walk into any real estate agency in Japan and you will find that the vast majority of listings specifically state that “foreigners are not allowed”. Similarly, many businesses in Japan openly display “Japanese Only” and “No Foreigner” signs. It is the same in other areas such as employment and schooling. It is this mindset which was behind the uproar in Japan when Zaha Hadid, a foreigner, won the original design competition for the Olympic stadium.

            Japan is the only developed country in the world which has no laws against racial discrimination, so racial discrimination is perfectly legal here. Your comment about Japan is disingenuous and extremely misleading.

          • Sam Boychuk

            I’m going to have side with Steve here. I am shocked that individuals outside Japan (possibly Asia) would call nationalism, racial superiority, xenophobia, what have you, an impossibility.

            I live less than 500 meters from a Japanese WWII death camp (think Auschwitz), I absolutely guarantee you Japan has a history of racial superiority. I also live in a country that president Obama recently condemned for internal racism (surrounded by nations know for political cleansing, which is essentially ethnic or religious genocide ie Indonesia and Burma).

            You might disagree that xenophobia was the major factor in this decision, but don’t insult those of us that live under racial and religious persecution by saying it can’t exist. I’m also curious why your tone toward Steve is so belligerent (kindly)?

          • Nicole

            If you will read my post carefully, I have not defended xenophobia or racism, which I should point out are two very different things. I did not claim it did not exist. How am I insulting you? I am criticizing the victim complex and oversensitivity that seems to infect many fellow gaijin I have had the displeasure of meeting. Steve seems to be one of them, especially given that he himself is prone to racism and xenophobia.

      • Sunny

        Only if you think this way. You are giving opinions as an outsider – what do the locals think? Frank Gehry did NOT want his signature organic form to appear in Chicago; the Millennium Park was proposal as rectilinear form.

        Chicago never had anything in curvy form so the architect wanted to keep up the integrity of the city. However, the City of Chicago opposed him and really wanted his iconic design rather than something that would fit better in the city, so the Millennium Park was executed as a “Gehry’s idea”.

        A good architect needs to think of a building as part of the local culture, and of course budgeting, instead of doing whichever he/she likes and insist. Famous architect with a horrible attitude.

        • Sam Boychuk

          By definition an outsider is the target of xenophobia, what makes Steve’s observations invalid?

          • Nicole

            I believe it’s important to consider who will be paying for such a stadium, who will bear the responsibility for its maintenance, and who will be using it in the future. There was a lot of local antagonism toward the demolition of the original stadium and the selection of the new design based on its size and appearance. There were protests.

      • ellieban

        In addition to the comments you have received from others, you might bear in mind that you are not the only westerner to have ever spent a long time living in Japan. Nor do the years spent living there make you an automatic authority on Japanese architecture.

        I recognise the the points you raised earlier in Japanese culture, but to reduce them to those three points is to practice the very racism of which you are accusing them.

  • Roberto Sideris

    To the regular eye there aren’t obvious similarities so she just looks foolish for calling them out. The “stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration” means nothing without some good plan drawings as back-up. She now appears as a fully fledged star architect in the worst meaning of the term.

    • Besides, the new design will probably be brought in on budget without starchitect excuses.

  • djnn24

    Hadid needs to stop now. Her stadium design was horrendous and shares little similarity to the new design by the looks of it.

  • Eddie Sampaio

    I really don’t like her “design”!

  • James Coulee

    Though I understand how Kengo Kuma’s detailing fittingly represents Japanese design and Japan’s masterful woodwork, it seems to me that this design’s monolithic presence in the landscape has bigger scale problems than Hadid’s design.

    Hadid’s shape morphed to shapes of smaller scale at the edges where we’d visually connect with the built surroundings, while still maintaining an elegant presence at a landscape scale.

    Kuma’s design is bulky, seems to smash the scale of the built surroundings and it looks like even the landscape scale can’t quite cope with its bulkiness.

    Considering those were some of the most important concerns of those opposed to Hadid’s design I can relate to what she’s saying now.

    • spadestick

      I fail to see any coherence in your argument.

      • James Coulee

        I’m sorry for that. Kuma’s building has a big, simplistic, bulky shape. Hadid’s building has more complex shapes with smaller sections, allowing it to relate a bit better to the built surrounding and park scale.

        One of the arguments against Hadid’s design was scale and Kuma’s seems to be worse at that. Did it help? Or is it another aspect of my comment that lacks coherence?

        • spadestick

          I think I see the opposite.

          • Nicole

            I agree. I see the opposite, and I think people should not refer to the renders found on Dezeen ALONE. There are other renders elsewhere. This is a limited picture of the entire project.

          • James Coulee

            Ah, OK. Disagreeing is a different thing. I can respect it. Kuma’s project seems to be more successful in its detailing, and that has a big role in scale perception too.

        • Dangus

          Interesting opinion but it’s incorrect. Kuma’s design is infinitely more contextually sound and refined than Zaha Hadid’s tactless spaceship.

          • James Coulee

            Interesting opinion but it’s incorrect. Though I appreciate how you root for your team.

          • James Coulee

            I should add that some programs like these, with huge footprints and especially in a setting like this, will always be a spaceship no matter how you design them. They will always be an exception in their context. You either own it, or you do some rhetoric nonsense about contextualization and still produce an elephant in a glass store.

            Kuma’s design is still a four layer, 15-floor-high cake that landed on a park, no matter how beautifully you rethoricaly paint it, reference traditional woodworking techniques that really aren’t being used here, or talk about how it’s exactly like the delicate temple down the street.

            Sometimes you have to accept a foreign design for an object that is condemned to be foreign in its context.

            Hadid does that better – foreign objects – even when she shouldn’t. But here she should. And she won the competition for it. And her shape was far more delicate to the landscape than this underdeveloped, under resolved and under designed shape that such a good architect prematurely presented for the bucks.

    • Roger That

      It’s a stack of pancakes. (I’m not the first to say this.)

  • TFO

    “Remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration”. You mean like *every other* stadium being built today?

  • Vigarano

    “Hadid claims the replacement design has a similar shape and layout to her proposal.” An oval footprint for a building containing a football pitch and a running track, with tiered seats arranged around them. How innovative, Zaha.

  • Will Mac

    Tokyo won the bid largely because of Zaha Hadid’s design. The new one looks unfinished, possibly on purpose?

  • Bart

    At least the Japanese were smart enough to reject Hadid’s design in favour of a design that fits much better in Japanese society, cultural history and surroundings. Something Hadid never understood. The new design by Kuma reflects serenity, soberness, and does not want to show off.

  • Nicole

    Her mind is starting to go. I wonder when her designs will follow.

  • fabian.kuenzel

    In my eyes Kuma tries to connect inside and outside by using planting that will probably never be planted as rendered. It will be in the way and is not what Olympic committees care about. If you take the greenery from the renders the design is pretty foreign to its surroundings.

    Zaha’s design is more honest — it is what it is — a giant, extraordinary, modern and futuristic stadium in an urban environment. Her stadium would have been a landmark for decades. Kuma’s design will disappear in an fast-changing urban fabric. Zaha’s original design wouldn’t disappear, Kuma’s will. They treated her really badly and it is her right to fight for her rights.

    • Nicole

      I do not see how Kuma’s design is foreign. It uses wood as a primary material, which references traditional Japanese architecture and aesthetics. It is contextual: it blends in with the greenery of the park and its wood alludes to nearby Meiji shrine.

      With its reduced height and size, it does not attempt to talk over the nearby architectural structures, especially Tange’s gymnasium. It uses ideas found in traditional temple architecture. How is this not honest? And, yes, traditional Japanese architecture is meant to blend in and be in harmony with its environment, even “disappear”.

      The ultimate takeaway from this whole debacle is that in all his projects, Kuma is the superior architect to Hadid. Maybe Hadid can be the design consultant for the next Star Wars movies.

      • James Coulee

        Gluing some plants on a design doesn’t make it contextual. Nor should it be. It’s an exceptional program, which supports a design that is an exemption in its context.

        • Nicole

          Kuma uses wood in the actual structure, so I don’t know how this addresses any of the points I’m making. I’m not talking about the wood in the plants. I’m talking about the wood in the building itself.

          Are you basing your opinion on the renders provided only on Dezeen? Because in the complete proposal and as posted elsewhere, Kuma is careful to use wood in the entire building and in the interiors. Clearly you have not demonstrated any idea what Kuma’s philosophy and aesthetic is as an architect. Look at his previous projects. They are contextual. They use wood.

          • James Coulee

            Well, if he’s using wood then I take it back. :) Sorry to make a joke out of it, I just feel that using wood is hardly what it takes to make it contextual, just as planting trees over the building seems to me shockingly superficial (and at worst, technically counterproductive) for such a world-class architect.

            Please don’t think I’m trying to provoke you, we probably just have different conceptual backgrounds.

          • Nicole

            I did mention that the proximity to Meiji Shrine makes Kuma’s design contextual, and that the reference to Japanese temple architecture in the tiered levels also takes into account Meiji shrine.

            The stadium also has certain properties that are similar to the previous Jingu Gaien Stadium, notably shape, so that there is a sense of continued legacy since the Jingu Gaien area was a result of the construction of the previous stadium. The wood in Kuma’s proposal, using locally sourced lumber, also pays respect to the Gingko Avenue that Jingu Gaien is known for.

          • James Coulee

            In my opinion you can’t just mimic (in such an abstract way that I wonder if it really does) some detailing from a building of a completely different scale and for a completely different function and call it a successful contextualization. It seems strictly superficial and rhetoric.

            But I realize this exchange between us is less about proper architectural discussion and more about Kuma’s blind fan-club (or Hadid’s hate-club), which are both deeply uninteresting to me (the clubs, not the architects).

          • Nicole

            I think relegating this argument to a diatribe coming from Kuma fan club members or Hadid hate club members is not just a straw man argument but condescending. I’ve rationalized my argument, replied in a civil manner, and I certainly don’t deserve to be dismissed so frivolously.

            I was attempting to contextualize the stadium given the surrounding important buildings and landscape. I don’t see how this is superficial. The stadium is to be located in one of the most important green areas of Tokyo. The buildings in the area consist of a Shinto shrine, a Taisho period building, and a traditional pottery ceramic school. The area evokes nature in the middle of an urban area, historical architecture, Shinto, and Japanese traditional craft.

            I do not see how a parametric futurist architectural program can be properly contextualized in such a space. Maybe if Zaha were building in another part of Tokyo instead, such as Odaiba. Kuma’s solution appears to be a better compromise.

          • James Coulee

            Your defense is in absolutes, fundamentalistic: there seems to be no margin of a chance that Kuma or your rhetorics may not be dogmatically true and absolutely correct (and Hadid is surely absolutely wrong). So you see where I may have made a bit of confusion for taking it as fan-boyish.

            These huge programs, and especially in a setting like this, will probably always be alien to its surrounding no matter how you design them, for their sheer scale. They will aways present themselves as exceptions in their context. There’s no disguising it with beautiful rhetorics about how it references woodworking techniques that aren’t really used, how it relates to a delicate temple down the street of a completely different scale, for completely different functions, when in the end it’s just a gigantic, 15-floor high pancake stack that landed on a park with interesting detailing.

            To my personal architectural sensibilities, the use of wood just for looks seems superficial, those connections to pre-existing architectural elements are, to me, truly offensive because it’s not only comparing elephants to ants, it’s saying it like we should buy that discourse. And plants on top? That’s some glue on contextualization at the price of proper architecture.

            I don’t believe this is a design deserving of such a world-class architect. It seems to be hugely under developed to make deadlines.

            Sometimes you just have to accept that it’s proper to have a foreign design for an object that will always be condemned to be foreign, because architecture isn’t about rhetorics. The Shinto shrine didn’t need them to be perfectly integrated on its site. It’s about built reality, and the reality is that the huge scale of this building will smash the surroundings no matter how you decorate it, and Kuma’s volume is massive.

            I generally don’t appreciate Hadid’s work, not only for a lack of sensitivity to the surroundings but especially for an appalling disconnection between exterior design and the interior spacial qualities and characteristics. But she’s the expert in foreign objects, she does have a way of modeling them to adjust their scale, and she won the competition for it.

          • Tina

            The best solution would have been a renovation of the old stadium. I’m with Toyo Ito on that point.

          • Nicole

            If you had simply engaged me on the points I was making in my argument, instead of resorting to the fallacies of logic, personal attacks, and assumptions about my character then we might have had a more fruitful discussion, even if we both disagreed. Next time, I suggest trying to engage others along these lines.

            While I acknowledge your points with regard to the size of the stadium, this is already a compromise to the surrounding environment. The best course of action would have been to renovate the original stadium, but since it has already been demolished, and because the city has an obligation to host the Olympics, then it had to devise a solution in tandem with the criteria of an Olympic stadium for track and field events with respect to the built environment. The first solution was Hadid’s proposal, which was not just rejected because of size and design but by those living in the proximity of the area, the users of the area, and the taxpayers. The second design is seen as a compromise among all parties involved except for Hadid herself.

            I will stand by what I have already argued that a parametric futurist design is not the solution here. I think it’s wasteful of taxpayers’ money, unnecessarily large because not that many people will use the stadium after the Olympics, and insensitive to local opinions and the immediate environment. I will stand for this project as an appropriate compromise and proper response to local concerns and the environment. I have mentioned the other buildings in the area, not just Meiji shrine, so I will defend the success of its integration into the cityscape.

            Looking at renders of the interiors and how the wood will be used to construct the building, I don’t think the use is superficial at all. And I am of the thinking that rhetoric is just as important in architecture, so we will simply have to leave this discussion as a disagreement. I fail to see how I am absolutist simply because I have expressed an opinion and way of thinking that does not conform to yours.

            Also, why are you using fanboy to refer to me? I find this a bit insulting and prefer to be referred to with my proper gender in mind.

          • James Coulee

            I engaged your points directly and I engaged your stance as well, as I feel I’m entitled to (and as did you), since your comments included both.

            Your passive-aggressive complaints seem to be, actually, a bigger distraction from the real discussion (while stating that others are unable to stay on point). I’m sure there are reasons for that.

            You don’t write like you’re presenting an opinion. You write with the presumption that your opinion is the final truth, which is not what one appreciates when in a discussion, and with a patronising tone that seems like you’re here to educate the rest of us about it.

            Some of the commenters may find your views too simplistic, for instance, so maybe I’d suggest trying to not engage others along these lines and going for a more humble approach.

            Parametricism is just a tool, as is any CAD. Good and bad architects will always be aplenty. Rhetoric is worse than Parametricism, as it can validate even the worst architecture. That’s what rhetoric is for after all: it’s an art dedicated to obfuscate the truth and persuade, even if lacking in sincerity and meaning, though a discourse with the appearance of truthfulness.

            Rhetoric is the reason why architecture is each day less pertinent for the people who validate our place, as architects, in society: non-architects.

            And considering academic architecture – as opposed to master-builder architecture – isn’t much more than 150 years old, most of the best work in architecture was done without depending on it.

            Finally, I’m sorry I didn’t call you a “fangirl” though I don’t believe it changes the substance of anything I’ve written…

            Someone pointing out the way you present your views is what is supposed to happen when one walks in the rain. I’m sympathetic with Ito’s view, too.

          • Nicole

            Of course I believe my opinion is my final say on the matter. How else does one express an opinion if not in this way?

            If you are easily offended by an opinion expressed in such a strong manner, then I recommend avoiding people such as myself who don’t feel the need to be nice, kind, humble, or sympathetic. I value the exchange of ideas first and foremost, never mind the tone or presentation of such views, because I don’t see the need to focus on the superficial. If you feel like I am lecturing, then that isn’t my problem.

            I simply pointed out my offence at your refusing to correctly refer to my gender. Did I say it invalidated anything you said? No.

            I don’t believe your points show any complete understanding of Kuma’s proposal at all, since you constantly reiterate how his understanding of traditional Japanese architecture is superficial. If you are basing your opinion on the very few renders presented here on Dezeen, then I suggest you take the time to study the complete proposal as I did:


            It isn’t simply the wood here that makes it traditional, but the building techniques, the interiors, combined with modern architectural techniques. The proposal discusses the context of the proposal and how it respects the context it is placed in.

            If you want to further and more deeply engage in the idea of rhetoric and academic architecture, then perhaps we’ve gone beyond what we’ve set out to do and this isn’t the best place for it. I believe we’ve exhausted all we have to say.

            I disagree with your way of thinking and your ideas as you do mine. I think we’ve exhausted all that needs to be said since we’re just going around in circles or launching off in tangents. It’s been interesting, but I think we should end this here. Regards.

          • Nicole


            Yes, rhetoric can obfuscate, but it can also be useful. It’s not an either/or choice, and I will argue it is as much a neutral tool for architecture and the understanding of architecture. I also don’t see how the success of master builder architecture invalidates the utility of academic architecture. Anyway, I really do not think this is representative of academic architecture, and, having read his design philosophy, neither is Kuma an academic architect.

            Finally, I don’t owe anyone an explanation for the way I present my views. Neither am I obliged to present my views in such a way that makes them more palatable. Unlike you, I believe that a knowledge of proper rhetoric and logic, in the classical, philosophical sense, is necessary for any respectful and productive dialogue, and I will continue in this manner according to those rules because I don’t see how my tone or motivation or personality invalidates the expression of my opinion, although thank you for your concern.

          • Tina

            I should make it clear that for me, Kengo Kuma’s design is the next best, and then Zaha Hadid’s, and then Toyo Ito’s a distant last, after comparing the proposal in the link Nicole shared with Zaha Hadid’s latest design below :)


      • fabian.kuenzel

        Read all the articles please. Zaha’s design was about a lot of wood in construction and cladding . Feels like you just read this article and judged by a little bit of information, darling.

        All your arguments are stereotypes. Japan is in the 21st century too and stands for much more than just shrines. And architecture on this scale needs to stand out and not to fade away.

        • Nicole

          We don’t need to speculate on what I did or didn’t read. Stick to the argument, please.

          Why does architecture on this scale need to stand out? I must have missed that note in class. Iconism certainly isn’t the way architecture, especially in Japan, has gone recently. Iconism has disappeared with the generation of Tange and the other Metabolists. It’s been replaced with the more humble architecture of Ito, Sanaa, Kuma, Ishigami, Fujimoto, Ban, etc.

          Even Maki has embraced more humble forms recently. How is it a stereotype if it simply rejects Modernist ideas about architecture and embraces Japanese aesthetics, especially the renewed vigor for preservation among locals?

          • Guest

            Having been to Japan for both business and pleasure, and enjoyed every minute spent there, I’d like to say that you’ve pretty-well encapsulated the Japanese and their way of life as I perceived it. In particular your obvious understanding of their attitude to architecture and use of space; the bit most outsiders will never ever get (Tadao Ando helped me greatly with that).

            And may the Japanese stay just as they are. Not that they’re going to pay much attention to the likes of your indignant American adversary here. He must surely find it a real chore living there.

          • James Coulee

            Architecture of this scale WILL always stand out. There’s no real choice there. Pretending it won’t will just lead to bad architecture.

    • Jilious

      Her proposal looks like they dropped a large bicycle helmet on the site. The fact that Kuma’s proposal will disappear is a testament to how successfully it will integrate into the surrounding landscape.

      When architects grow up and lose their ego, they will realise that architecture is for the people and not to populate the earth with huge business cards for their office. In 20-30 years all Hadid’s work will look like the past’s vision of the future.

      • davide

        “In 20-30 years all Hadid’s work will look like the past’s vision of the future.” Quote!

  • maishado

    I have a theory that Tadao Ando has stayed true to his Osaka roots, and was just messing with Tokyo the entire time with the Zaha stadium.

  • A_potato

    Put some trees on the outside and then the building can “blend with the surroundings”. Good idea, Kuma.

  • Pavell

    For me, Kuma stands for permeability, sustainability and most of all he stands for a natural and human relation to space.

    I think all of these are pertinent and positive markers for our future. Instead, Hadid stands for a grotesque thesis of what should be seen as “natural”. She stands for objects that seem to have no relation with their environment and, as you can tell from her comments, she openly expresses envy and greed. I think Zaha Hadid is the perfect sculptor. She should focus on art work, not on inhabited space.

  • Fred

    How does an architect manage be so unlikable? I mean, even in that picture she looks like a mix between Morticia and Maleficent and as if she just smelled something disgusting. And nothing she ever says or does is remotely likeable.

    Her designs all look the same and she is always complaining about people not liking them or copying them. Architecture is a whisper and she can only scream. Even though she is supposed to be a woman with an exemplary career in architecture, as a woman myself, I cannot look up to her. I don’t mean to offend anyone, just saying what I think.

    • “Portrait” please.

      • Fred


        • “Even in that” portrait of Zaha Hadid by Mary McCartney. The “picture” was credited by Dezeen as a portrait…

  • Secret_squirel

    There isn’t any similarities between her seating bowl and Kuma’s because she didn’t design it… It was Arup!

  • HeywoodFloyd

    So tired of ZHA’s blatant egotism, get over yourself already. There are more serious problems in the world besides your (former) client’s “shocking treatment” of you and your consultants. And as if that wasn’t enough petulant, over-privileged behaviour, she goes on to accuse Kuma of ripping her off. Unbelievable.

    Your opponents have “colluded” against you? Come up with a better design. High construction costs are just an excuse? To the rest of us toiling away at a substantially lower elevation than the rarified air of the starchitect universe, cost is a very real issue to contend with. Your client changed their mind. Neither the scale of the project, its high-profile nature nor your fame will make that go away.

  • Luis Felipe Salas

    Now “everyone” hates Zaha Hadid original design? WTF? She won the contest! THIS IS NOT MISS UNIVERSE! This is an obvious collusion against her, led by a group of zealous and inconspicuous architects. Now Tokyo 2020 will be boring as the new stadium…

  • Greg Farrell

    I can see the similarities; it’s a stadium, with a running track and seats stacked around the track for spectator viewing. Seriously Zaha? Put you and your design into a room of mirrors and take a good long, hard look!

  • Dgtal Zoo

    Not only does the new design stick out like a badly designed sore thumb, it’s just as big as the original Hadid proposal, which was protested on the grounds of its scale.

    Disgusting, bombastic and unprofessional behaviour on the part of these Japanese architects/protestors. The scrapping of ZHA’s proposals and redesign had only to do with dirty politics, not design or scale!

  • jyanzi

    One tries to land, the other tries to emerge from the ground. They tried. Either way, context is not about this project.

  • bubble

    First world problems! Oh they don’t like my project for a stadium for entertainment. Hh how tragic. This is news for ignorant, snobby architects.

  • Bill Payton

    The Kuma stadium is much better. Why is there even a discussion?

  • Concerned Citizen

    She just can’t accept that her stuff is garbage, that the thinking person cannot endure it.

  • Architect

    Zaha has been treated appallingly by Japan and fellow professionals. I’m ashamed. The situation hasn’t been handled well and Japan has been made to look foolish.

    • Nicole

      Let us not forget that the local community that lives in the area and uses the area voted against Hadid’s proposal.

  • Patrik Schumacher

    Maki, Ito, Kuma had been bickering about our stadium design for nearly two years saying it was on the wrong site and was too bulky… now both Ito and Kuma have submitted designs that appear far bulkier (we were able to supress the edge height due to our use of arches). Sad to witness!

  • Alan Lee

    An artist accusing an architect, funny.

  • thechromaticloop

    Intelligent materials and nanotechnology need to be perfected before we can achieve kinetic architecture at a massive scale like the living, moving organism designs that ZHA try to express. Until then these particular projects are just “beautiful” carcasses, but of course then we will have to talk about what beauty is.

    So what the Japanese did is a statement of rationality. Also take in account that Tokyo is one of the most populated megalopolis in the world, every square meter has to be carefully planed.

  • Franklun Ngaihte

    I find Zaha’s design totally ugly. The new design by Kuma is much better.

  • Anna Bacheva

    I am sorry and sad that Japanese people didn’t agree with Zaha Hadid’s project. The winning project, no matter how good it fits with cultural and environment aspects, is very boring. And in 2020 I think it will be even much more! Finally it is not the 16th century we are living in and buildings from such an importance must show our civilisational efforts to be target in a different direction and dimensions.