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Winning Design of Japan’s National Stadium Announced

Exterior rendering of the new Japan National Stadium
The new Japan National Stadium, designed by London-based Zaha Hadid Architects, is composed of a transparent shell and dual arches that span the 80,000-seat stadium. An “inhabited bridge” defines the perimeter off the stadium, which will be completed in time to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup. © Zaha Hadid Architects

The Japan Sport Council has announced the winner of the design competition for the country’s new national stadium: London-based Zaha Hadid Architects.

December 4, 2012—The Japan Sport Council recently announced the winner of an international design competition for the new $1.6-billion National Stadium of Japan: London-based Zaha Hadid Architects, which is led by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Zaha Hadid. The complex and iconic design includes a transparent shell and dual arches that span the 80,000 seat stadium, as well as a so-called “inhabited bridge” that defines the stadium’s perimeter.

The dual-arch spans that frame the stadium—which is covered by a lightweight transparent tensile roof—will create unrestricted spectator views, according to a statement issued by Zaha Hadid Architects in response to written questions posed by Civil Engineering online. “The combination of arching frames and transparent openings articulates the ground movement and dynamics of sports [while] also achieving a relatively lightweight and sustainable design by utilizing daylight and reducing the amount of materials required to build the required enclosure,” the firm stated.

The competition, which resulted in 46 submissions, stipulated that the new stadium comfortably accommodate 80,000 spectators and ease traffic into and out of the stadium despite its massive size. The need for an operable roof and the ability of the new stadium to host events ranging from rugby and soccer (complete with grass turf), to track and field events as well as concerts and other cultural events were nonnegotiable elements of the brief. 

Interior rendering of the new Japan National Stadium

The stadium’s design has many sustainable elements, including
natural lighting systems, passive ventilation systems, photovoltaic
power generation, geothermal energy systems, gray water reuse,
and rainwater cooling systems. Tokyo is currently bidding to host
the 2020 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and the new
stadium will be put forward as one of the primary venues. 

© Zaha Hadid Architects

“One of the key challenges was to conceive a specific design for a very familiar typology,” the firm stated. The design studio’s goal was to not only meet, but to exceed, the criteria for large stadium projects that have been issued by the various sports’ governing bodies. “We challenged ourselves to surpass these requirements and to create a stadium [that] connected to its surrounding environment [and] which could represent the excitement of an event space [while] being built and operated in a sustainable manner,” the firm stated.

The country’s original National Stadium was built to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and “marked a watershed” in the postwar progress of the nation of Japan, according to a statement by the competition’s jury that is included on the competition’s website. The existing stadium will be demolished and the narrow site, which is bounded by the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, the Meiji Jingu Stadium, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, will be reused for the new stadium.

Zaha Hadid Architects’s winning proposal is an “innovative and fluid design that expresses a sense of dynamism appropriate for sporting events,” according to the jury’s statement, and is “an excellent synthesis of structure and space,” with “clear and powerful ideas for making connections to the city.” According to the jury, part of the appeal of the design was the manner in which its bridgelike arch design and various sustainable design elements pushed the boundaries of Japan’s current construction and environmental technologies, expressing “the innovative spirit of the nation.”

“The iconic bridgelike arch structure stands to challenge the full capacity of modern Japanese construction technology,” the jury said in its statement, and “the proposals for natural lighting systems, passive ventilation systems, photovoltaic power generation, geothermal energy use, gray water use, and rainwater cooling systems also provide ample opportunities for the implementation of Japan’s advanced environmental technologies.”

A local planning team is being formed to help develop the winning concept and refine the approach paths and other connections to the surrounding areas to suit the existing site conditions, according to the jury.

Interior rendering of the new Japan National Stadium displaying a concert performance

The stadium was required to accommodate an operable roof and
multiple uses, rugby and soccer to concerts and cultural events.
© Zaha Hadid Architects

The winning design triumphed over those of such well-known stadium design firms as Populous, creators of the Wimbledon stadium’s retractable roof in 2009 and the London Olympic Stadium and masterplan for the 2012 Olympic Games, and gmp Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner, designers of, among other structures, Brazil’s Arena da Amazônia in 2009.

The 10-person jury who selected the winning design included world-renowned architects Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, RIBA, FAIA, as well as Hiroyuki Suzuki, Takayuki Kishii, Hiroshi Naito, Makoto Yasuoka, Junji Ogura, Shunichi Tokura, and Ichiro Kono. The designs were evaluated on the originality and technical ambitiousness of their designs, the ambience the stadiums would create for spectators during events, and their constructability, according to the competition’s website.

The stadium will be completed on a tight schedule—within the next six years—in order to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup—and is intended to be a “symbol of hope for mankind” that the entire nation can take pride in, according to the jury.

Tokyo is currently bidding to host the 2020 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the new stadium will be put forward as one of the primary venues for those events, according to a statement made by Ichiro Kono, the president of the Japan Sport Council. The stadium will also be offered as a venue for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships.

In June, Zaha Hadid was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to architecture. She also designed the Aquatics Center for the 2012 London Olympics. (See “Gold Medal Legacy,” Civil Engineering, July/August 2012).


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    Japan won the national stadium is really good news! Great creation. Natural lighting system, passive ventilation system, winning victory over those famous stadium design. It was a great success.

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