Zaha Hadid's Tokyo Olympic stadium slammed as a 'monumental mistake' and a 'disgrace to future generations'

The 2020 Olympic stadium has faced two years of widespread criticism and budget cuts. Now prominent Japanese architect Arata Isozaki has launched a blistering attack on the designs

6bbd71fe 742b 40a6 bc16 da39ef2708a6 620x372 - Japan's Tokyo Olympic stadium costing 139 Bn Yen ‘Like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away’: Zaha Hadid’s revised design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium. Image: ZHAOliver Wainwright


Thursday 6 November 2014 09.47 GMTLast modified on Thursday 6 November 201410.16 GMT

It was supposed to represent a dynamic future vision for Tokyo, flaring up out of the city’s Meiji Jingu park in sinuous white arcs. But Zaha Hadid’s design for the 2020 Olympic stadium has been subjected to a two-year tirade of criticism, alterations and budget cuts – and it’s now facing its fiercest public attack yet.
After viewing the revised stadium designs, which were scaled down by a quarter in July following a 40% reduction in budget, one of the country’s most eminent architects, 83-year-old Arata Isozaki, has launched a blistering assault against the project, declaring it to be a “monumental mistake” and warning it will be a “disgrace to future generations”.
In a lengthy open letter to the Japan Sports Council, the government body in charge of plans for the 2020 games, Isozaki rails against the “distorted” process that has led to “a dull, slow form, like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away”.
“The sight left me in despair,” he writes, having seen the revised scheme at a current exhibition at Tokyo’s Opera City Art Gallery. “If the stadium gets built the way it is, Tokyo will surely be burdened with a gigantic white elephant.”
73d21cce 6489 4549 8207 136f411c51bd 620x372 - Japan's Tokyo Olympic stadium costing 139 Bn Yen Zaha Hadid’s original design for the Tokyo Olympic stadium, unveiled in 2012, which has since been scaled down by a quarter. Image: ZHAIt is the latest chapter in a saga that has seen the design subject to widespread opposition, led by a number of Japan’s leading architects. Shortly after the project was unveiled, 86-year-old Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki organised a symposium to protest against the scheme, joined by Toyo Ito, Kengo Kuma and Sou Fujimoto, resulting in a petition that called for the project to be scrapped, which has since gained 32,000 signatures of support.
Located in the historic outer gardens of the Meiji Shrine, on the site of the existing 50,000-capacity 1964 Olympic national stadium, Hadid’s 80,000-seat venue is planned to writhe across the park in her trademark style of intertwining white sinews, with broad arches rising up to 70m high. The London-based, Iraqi-born architect says the scheme is the result of “three decades of research into Japanese architecture and urbanism,” and promises it will be an “integral element of Tokyo’s urban fabric, directly engaging with the surrounding cityscape”. Yet opponents have pointed out it is grossly out of context, looking like a gigantic bicycle helmet plonked down in the gardens, and standing in flagrant breach of the 15m height limit in force in the area.