Kengo Kuma denies plagiarising Zaha Hadid's Tokyo stadium design

| 24 comments

Kengo Kuma has rubbished claims by Zaha Hadid that his replacement design for her scrapped Tokyo Olympic stadium has "remarkable similarities".

Speaking at a press conference earlier today, the Japanese architect refuted Hadid's suggestion that his design has a similar shape and layout to her own proposal, which was dropped by the Japan Sports Council in a row over spiralling costs.

"I believe if you take a look at Zaha Hadid's design and mine, you can see very different impressions of the building," he said, according to The Japan Times.

He said it was inevitable that the two projects would share some basic characteristics, as both were driven by the need to give all 80,000 spectators a good view of the action, reports the paper.

Kengo Kuma beats Toyo Ito to win Japan National Stadium competition
Kengo Kuma beat Toyo Ito to win the new competition for the Japan National Stadium project

Hadid was ousted from the job back in July, despite having worked on the design for over two years. Kuma was revealed to be taking over the project in December, ahead of a rival bid from fellow Japanese architect Toyo Ito.

Kuma said his scheme was different to Hadid's in many ways. He compared her design to "a saddle" with the sides rising, and said he tried to make his as low and flat as possible to minimise both costs and the visual impact of the building.



Both Kuma and Ito were among a group of Japanese architects that campaigned against Hadid's design, claiming it was both too big and too expensive. Speaking to Dezeen in late 2014, Hadid said they were hypocrites who "don't want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium".

Kuma said he does not think Hadid's nationality contributed to the decision to drop her from the project.

"However, I would like to say that I believe it is perhaps difficult for architects from other countries to work in Japan," he said, because of the language barrier.

Japan scraps Zaha Hadid's Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium
Zaha Hadid's stadium design was scrapped by Japan in July 2015

News also emerged yesterday that the Japan Sports Council is demanding Zaha Hadid Architects gives up the copyright for its competition-winning design.

Hadid has refused the request, which also asks the firm to agree to never discuss the project again. She has also accused Japanese authorities and architects of colluding against her.

  • right..ious

    Come on Kengo, it took a total of 14 weeks to come out with your proposal. ZHA spent two years on it. This is a no-brainer.

    • Pierre M

      Sorry to ask a silly question, but how are those two stadiums so similar? I just cannot see, except that they are two stadiums. How do you know about the time they actually spent on the project?

      • W. Sose

        It’s a Franken-stadium. The exterior is Kuma’s Burger King Whopper with Toothpicks, the innards are from ZHA’s extensive work. Even Toyo Ito said it is a rip-off. Japan Today (24 December 2015):

        “Architect Ito said Tuesday of Kuma’s design: ‘I wonder if it is almost entirely based on Zaha Hadid’s plan. Its appearance is different, but if you look under the surface, there are details that seem almost unchanged’.”

        Then the Japanese government decides to really go for the gold with three more rip-offs. Their shameful extortionate contract amendment proposals: to secure payment for work already carried out in good faith, as per pre-existing contract, ZHA is supposed to turn over copyright control of her designs to Japan Inc, sit down, shut up, and see to it that nobody else involved says a word either. The Japanese government is living in a fantasy world! “Chutzpah” doesn’t even begin to cover it!

        Japan Inc has taken us all for a ride starting with the international community of architects who competed and WORKED in good faith, and who have been systematically vilified for their trouble. The government’s actions and those of the Japan Whining Architects Team disrespect architecture, to say nothing of the tenets of honourable fair play integral to the Olympics. Enough!

        • Pierre M

          Thank you for your answer. It would be great for the general population not to show the exterior only, otherwise it is difficult not to question Zaha Hadid’s position.

          • k0n

            Exactly. I’d love to see more and be a judge myself. Toyo Ito, although a great architect, might be a sore loser here.

    • Stephen

      Luckily there are courts to sort this sort of thing out, rather than the comments section of a website.

  • keikomirashi

    A stadium is a stadium is a stadium. ZHA did not invent stadium-bowl design and the amenities around it. I can’t see how they can claim plagiarism on this.

  • Kate

    Behaviour of a bitter woman.

    • Jessie6693

      Why does her being a woman have anything to do with this?

      • Pierre M

        Actually “woman” is probably the only non-questionable piece of information of the sentence. Kate seems to be very close to the architect and know all about her deeper feelings.

    • W.Sose

      Behaviour of a courageous woman who refuses to be run over and ripped off by a bunch of xenophobic and misogynist creeps.

  • JSC practically admitted the plagiarism by blackmailing ZHA to handover the copyright for their design.

  • Ty

    Azusa Sekkei designed the bowl of the stadium with Zaha, and then they used the same one again with Kuma. I believe they never completely matched the column spacing of ZHA’s and KKA’s.

    • k0n

      That would explain a lot. Then it’s just a matter of IP rights – whether ZHA commissioned the bowl design and owns the copyright to it, or was Azusa Sekkei still free to (re)use it in collaboration with KKA.

  • spadestick

    What similarities?

  • JMFM

    He said, she said. Both look/looked terrible.

  • fresh10

    I’m assuming there are better pictures that would justify the accusation, no?

  • Guest

    I simply cannot understand why Kuma felt he had to defend himself in any way. There was nothing to defend, as there is no plagiarism. No two stadium designs could be more different.

  • Eddie Sampaio

    Happily the stadium will not be insect-shaped.

  • MarcoMDG

    “However, I would like to say that I believe it is perhaps difficult for architects from other countries to work in Japan,” he said, because of the language barrier. OMG! Ridiculous and pathetic.

  • Archi-Nerd

    I can’t imagine this scenario happening to another famous architect besides Zaha. This is more than business, this is personal.

  • Derek_V

    “However, I would like to say that I believe it is perhaps difficult for architects from other countries to work in Japan,” he said, because of the language barrier.” It’s a racist barrier Kengo. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    • Guest

      Japan is a monoculture, a simple fact that has nothing whatsoever to do with you (with your condemnatory chant).

      • Derek_V

        Just because you have a different name for racism does not make it less racist.