Zaha Hadid hits back at Tokyo stadium criticism

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Zaha Hadid, photo by Simone Cecchetti

Zaha Hadid says Tokyo stadium criticism is "embarrassing" for Japanese architects

News: Zaha Hadid has hit back at the Japanese architects criticising her Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium design, describing them as "hypocrites".

"I think it's embarrassing for them, that's all I can say," Hadid told Dezeen. "I understand it's their town. But they're hypocrites."

London-based architect Hadid was selected to design the 80,000-seat Japan National Stadium in 2012, following a restricted-entry international competition judged by a panel that included Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

In October last year, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki organised a symposium for Japanese designers including Toyo Ito and Kengo Kuma to protest against the size of the design in relation to its surroundings in Yoyogi Park – alongside Kenzo Tange's iconic 1964 Olympic stadium.

Fresh criticism has since come from Arata Isozaki, who said the stadium will be "a disgrace to future generations" last month following a redesign of the scheme.

"They don't want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium," said Hadid, who also designed the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 games in London. "On the other hand, they all have work abroad. Whether it's Sejima, Toyo Ito, or Maki or Isozaki or Kengo Kuma."

Zaha Hadid's modified Tokyo Olympic stadium design
Zaha Hadid's modified Tokyo Olympic stadium design

A number of Japanese architects were among the 11 finalists in the competition to design the stadium, including Toyo Ito, SANAA with Nikken SekkeiAzusa Sekkei, and Mitsuru Man Senda and Environment Design Institute.

"The fact that they lost is their problem, they lost the competition," said Hadid. "If they are against the idea of doing a stadium on that site, I don't think they should have entered the competition."

Speaking to Dezeen at the ground-breaking of her 1000 Museum skyscraper in Miami on Friday, Hadid said that she was saddened by the comments from her fellow professionals.

"Many of them were friends of mine, actually the ones which I supported before like Toyo Ito, who I worked with on a project in London. I've known him for a long time."

"It saddens me," said Hadid. "What can I do? They're going ahead with it irrespective. So..."

dezeen_Japan National Stadium Zaha Hadid Tokyo 2020_1sq
Hadid's original Japan National Stadium design

The stadium is set to become the main venue for Tokyo's successful 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games bid, and is due for completion in 2019, when it is scheduled to host games during the Rugby World Cup.

Zaha Hadid Architects confirmed that the design had been revised following budget changes and the ongoing criticism – including a 500-person street protest – in July.

Hadid has also designed a stadium for the controversial Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. The architect dismissed comparisons of the design to a vagina as "ridiculous", and filed a lawsuit against the writer of a book review that claimed Hadid showed a lack of concern for worker conditions on the project.