Japan picks new design for Olympic stadium after cost estimates soar

By Reuters
December 22,2015
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Japan's Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo speaks to reporters at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, REUTERS/Yuya Shino

By Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese architect Kengo Kuma on Tuesday won a competition to design the centrepiece stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, after ballooning costs forced the futuristic original plan to be scrapped.

The winning design submitted by a consortium led by Taisei Corp has a price tag of 149 billion yen (0.83 billion pounds), against an estimated $2.1 billion for the controversial concept by Zaha Hadid that was abandoned in July.

Kuma is known for blending traditional Japanese style with modern elements, and his design for the New National Stadium incorporates wood and layers of eaves.

"I think the design chosen meets the conditions sought, such as basic concept, construction and cost," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said as he announced the winner.

"I want every effort to be made so the new stadium incorporates the world’s best barrier-free (facilities) and ‘Japanese-ness’, and is a stadium that excites the people of the world and a legacy of which the next generation can be proud."

Another design by architect Toyo Ito and submitted by Takenaka Corp, Shimizu Corp and Obayashi Corp would have cost 149.7 billion yen.

Both designs were more simple than Hadid's idea, which critics derided as reminiscent of a bicycle helmet or drooping oyster and out of sync with the neighbourhood.

The winning design - which some critics have likened to a stack of pancakes - will stand 20 metres (22 yards) lower than the scrapped concept. It will incorporate wood - a traditional Japanese building material - into the roofing in an effort to blend with the leafy surroundings.

"A building that merges and is integrated with the woods, rather than stands out because of its shape. I believe that will be the legacy and that is 'Japanese-ness'," Kuma told a news conference.

Construction is scheduled for completion in November 2019, two months ahead of an International Olympic Committee deadline of January 2020. The Olympic Games are slated to start in July.

General contractor Taisei aims to speed up construction by manufacturing building components at factories and assembling them at the site. The builder said it plans to turn to foreign workers to cope with a labour shortage.

The stadium will have capacity of 68,000, which can be raised to 80,000 to host World Cup football finals.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel)