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Work starts on Kengo Kuma's Olympic Stadium

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Construction work has begun on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, 12 months after Kengo Kuma was selected to replace Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) on the scheme

Kuma’s design for a three-tier, 80,000-seat stadium, reportedly costing £1.2 billion, replaced ZHA’s designs for a futuristic stadium which more than doubled in budget from the original £674 million to £1.7 billion. 

The new stadium will be built on the site of the demolished 1964 Tokyo Olympic Stadium. It features a sunken playing surface, a flat roof with wooden lattice and a steel and timber structure inspired by traditional Japanese temple architecture.

The project has been dogged by controversy ever since Zaha Hadid won an open design competition for the job four years ago, when she was selected above a stellar field of international architects.

ZHA’s scheme was scaled down and redesigned in July 2014 after a petition – led by Kuma, Toyo Ito and Sou Fujimoto – received more than 32,000 signatures, calling for the design to be scrapped.

Despite the changes, ZHA’s proposals were dropped in July 2015 due to escalating costs, just weeks after the Japanese government said work would start in October that year. 

After the surprise announcement to scrap the scheme, ZHA criticised the client’s insistence on limiting the construction contract to a small number of Japanese firms, which it claimed had pushed costs up.

In a lengthy statement intended to ‘set the record straight’, ZHA also claimed it had not been permitted to work with the construction contractors to trim the budget.

A second contest was launched in September 2015 and ZHA initially teamed up with Japanese multidisciplinary conglomerate Nikken Sekkei to participate. But days later the pair withdrew, announcing they had failed to secure a contractor to bid with.

Kuma’s stadium is set to complete in November 2019.

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