Japanese Architect Rejects Copycat Claims

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Thursday, January 21st, 2016
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The Japanese architect behind the winning design of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium has hit out at claims he copied another design from the firm which had originally been awarded the contract to design the stadium.

In the latest development in what has thus far been a sorry saga, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has rejected claims that he copied Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid’s design for the Tokyo Olympic Stadium which is to be used in the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, Kuma acknowledged that there were similarities which existed between his design and that of Hadid – who won an earlier competition to design the 80,000 seat stadium in 2008 but was controversially kicked off the program last year amid concerns about cost blowouts.

“When we consider the design is being created within the same land, using the same tracks and under the same laws it is natural and almost automatic that there are some similarities which will arise,” Kuma said.

Amongst the similarities were the stadium’s structure and seating arrangements, whereby Kuma acknowledged that his design used a three-tiered stand layout like Hadid’s original design had and that the seating arrangements in his design were very similar to those in Hadid’s original design.

But he denied that this amounted to copying.

With regard to the structure, Kuma said the three-tiered layout simply represented the most sensible way to accommodate the stadium’s capacity requirements whilst maximising the proximity of the audience to the action.

Seven other designs entered into the competition used a similar design, he noted.

As for the seating arrangements, Kuma says the range of layouts permitted is restricted by Tokyo’s fire prevention acts, so the similarity of the arrangements between Kuma’s design and the original design of Hadid were not surprising.

Moreover, there were differences between the designs which created different impressions of the building, Kuma said.

Whereas Hadid’s original design involved the audience being separated into two sides which rise up, his own design kept the stadium height as low as possible (49 meters) in order to ensure it fitted within the surroundings, he said.

Kuma’s denial of Hadid’s accusation represents the latest development in a saga which started in 2008 when the latter won the original competition to design the stadium.

Following growing disquiet over the project’s cost – which involved street protests over fears about costs and the scale of the project as well as heavy criticism of the plan from local Japanese designers – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced last July that stadium’s design would be ‘started again from scratch’, and that a new design competition would be held.

Further recriminations arose after the Japanese Sports Council refused to make an overdue payment to Hadid for her scrapped stadium design unless she gave up all the copyright on the project and signed a gagging order.

In a statement released late last month on the day of the announcement regarding Kuma’s victory in the second design competition, Hadid hit out at the treatment afforded to her firm.

“We were honoured to be selected to design a stadium that would enable Japan to welcome the world for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and bring the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo, before becoming a new home for Japanese sport for many future generations”,  she wrote.

“Sadly the Japanese authorities, with the help of some of those from our own profession in Japan, have colluded to close the doors on the project to the world”.

“This shocking treatment of an international design and engineering team, as well as the respected Japanese design companies with whom we worked, was not about design or budget. In fact, much of our two years of detailed design work and the cost savings we recommended have been validated by the remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration with those of the design announced today.”

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