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Designer says new Olympic stadium will be cornerstone of 'green' Tokyo

1) Architect Kengo Kuma explains his plan for the new National Stadium, at a news conference in Tokyo, on Dec. 22, 2015. (Mainichi)

Architect Kengo Kuma said on Dec. 22 that the new main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to be built based on his design will be a "cornerstone" in the greening of Tokyo.

    He made the comment after "Proposal A" presented by a joint venture including Kuma and construction giant Taisei Corp. was selected for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics main stadium following the scrapping of an initial design by an Iraqi-British architect. Kuma looked quite satisfied with the result as he explained the proposal details. The architect who designed "Proposal B," meanwhile, raised questions about the way "Proposal A" was picked.

    Kuma, 61, held a news conference in Tokyo with senior officials of his proposal partners Taisei Corp. and Azusa Sekkei Co. "I am fully feeling my heavy responsibility," he said. Kuma then emphasized that his design harmonizes with the natural landscape of the neighboring Meiji Jingu Gaien park area, saying, "It will be a cornerstone of Tokyo's green network."

    Wearing a black leather jacket, Kuma used his laptop computer to explain the details of the plan on a screen on the wall. On the proposed design for the roof made with a combination of wood and metal, he said with enthusiasm, "This will be the only stadium where people can experience watching competitions while feeling surrounded by trees."

    The 850-meter-circumference "Tree in the Sky" to be built on top floor of the stadium is designed to be a space for strolling, where people can come and go by exterior steps. Kuma said, "I hope it will become a new place to be in Tokyo."

    Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid's original stadium design, which was scrapped earlier this year, featured two giant "keel arches" forming the backbone for the stadium roof. Kuma said, "I not only kept the height low but also set out to create an environment-friendly texture by using wood. The stadium has a flat shape, making it clearly different" from the original design.

    About "Proposal B" designed by rival architect Toyoo Ito, Kuma said, "It is characteristic of Ito-sensei, and I thought this was going to be a close contest."

    Taisei Corp. Chairman Takashi Yamauchi said, "We were aiming to create a synergistic effect with Mr. Kuma, who has achieved results in design by making great use of wood. We are honored to have been selected for this extremely important national project." Taisei Corp. handled the former National Stadium, which was demolished earlier this year. The company was set to build the stands in the stadium designed by Zaha Hadid.

    Fumihiko Sugitani, president of Azusa Sekkei -- which had also been involved in the original plan's design -- said, "We are especially delighted to be able to help (with the project) again."

    Architect Toyoo Ito is seen at a news conference in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Dec. 22, 2015. (Mainichi)

    Stadium "Proposal B" architect Toyoo Ito raised questions about the screening process, saying at a Dec. 22 news conference in Tokyo, "I wonder why we had a result like this?"

    His design lost mainly due to lower evaluations in the "shortening of construction period" screening category. Ito said, "It's hard to believe there was a difference of 27 points there."

    Furthermore, Ito revealed that he had once suggested in an exchange with the Japan Sport Council (JSC) that if preparation such as earth-retaining and pile-extracting work could not be done in advance, the completion of the stadium would be delayed by two months from the original plan. That may have affected the screening result, he said.

    As for the basic concepts required for the stadium construction project, such as "athletes first," "the best universal design," "harmony with the surrounding environment and Japanese-ness," Ito confidently said, "In those three areas, our scores were not inferior (to our rival)."

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