Opening on December 21, Tokyo’s new National Stadium will replace its older, 56-year-old arena of the same name. (Rendering courtesy Kengo Kuma Architects)
In one month, Japan will celebrate the opening of its new $1.4 billion National Stadium ahead of next summer’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Designed by Kengo Kuma and the Azusa Sekkei Corporation, construction on the 68,000-seat arena has officially been completed as of this week, according to the Japan Sport Council.
The project is located in Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Gaien district and took almost exactly three years to build under the supervision of national construction giant Taisei Corporation. National Stadium is nearly twice the size of the venue it’s replacing, an arena of the same name that was built 61 years ago for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics—the last time the city hosted the event. It’s set in the same space as its predecessor near one of Tokyo’s largest parks and features an all-timber-and-steel framing system that will allow lush greenery to spill over the pagoda-inspired structure’s sides when it grows in the next decade.
Kengo Kuma’s vision for National Stadium quickly came after nearly a decade of controversy that surrounded its build-out. Zaha Hadid was originally supposed to design the stadium as the centerpiece of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, but her proposal seemed too costly to complete in time for the 2020 grand opening. Instead, Kuma’s stadium, with its half-covered roof and open-air columns , was both cheaper and easier to build. The design team sourced more than 70,000 cubic feet of larch and cedarwood from Japan’s 47 prefectures, and while it was a clever sustainability move, the gesture also drew criticism over allegations of endangered tropical timber that was used.
The National Stadium is one of 42 venues used during the international event next summer. Eight of the total spaces are completely new and all were designed by local architects. As the largest stadium in the city, National Stadium will play host to the opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympics and Paralympic Games, as well as some soccer and track and field events.
The official opening celebration for the National Stadium is scheduled for December 21, after which the site will host its first event: the Emperor’s Cup soccer final on New Year’s Day.