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The Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games: A Wondrous Celebration of Construction and Design
August 4, 2021 at 6:30 PM
by Subikshaa Stalin
image 3 - archdaily.jpg

Throughout the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games, we found ourselves rooting and cheering for our nation’s prodigious sports stars as they put their best stride forward. Today, Archslate invites you to cherish and celebrate another important aspect of the Olympian festivities - the built spaces and elaborate venues that host the grand sporting event.

Four Venues that are Hosting the 2021 Olympics in Japan

1. Japan National Stadium by Kengo Kuma - 2019

2. Ariake Gymnastics Centre by Nikken Sekkei + Shimizu Corporation - 2019

3. Fumihiko Maki’s Makuhari Messe Hall - 1989

4. Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Stadium - 1964

1. Japan National Stadium by Kengo Kuma - 2019

The timbre-clad oval stadium has been the focus of attention of this year’s Olympics hosting the most distinguished Opening and Closing ceremonies. Kuma’s controversial yet ambitious design reflects a rhythmic composition of contemporary styles and Japanese traditions in its wooden elements. Prioritizing the nation’s capital and built resources, Kenzo Kuma, in his cost-efficient design of the grand sports complex embodied the values of a new changing Japanese society. The apparent ‘horizontality’ of the National Stadium stands in sharp contrast to the verticality in Zaha Hadid’s glorified proposal for the same structure. In Kuma’s opinion, the horizontality of his design represents the Japanese individuality in a better perspective. Hadid’s defunct designs envisioned heroism with its absolute verticality and grandiose height, neglecting its prized urban surroundings.

Although Zaha Hadid’s designs initially managed to win the international competition, the Japanese government dismissed them due to the proposal’s exorbitant budgets. In 2016, Kuma’s National Stadium started taking shape on real ground and neared its completion in 2019. The stadium now hosts soccer and tracking tournaments and can accommodate a total of 68,000 individuals.

2. Ariake Gymnastics Centre by Nikken Sekkei + Shimizu Corporation - 2019

Holding the prestigious gymnastics and Boccia tournaments this Olympic season, the Ariake Gymnastics Centre is located alongside the canal in the northern part of the Ariake district. A visually striking feature of the structure is the elaborate floating wooden vessel enclosing it. Harboring sustainability and wooden utility as the prime concept for all structures of the Tokyo 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the sporting complex exhibits a progressive design in this regard.

The Gymnastic Centre makes use of wood and timber extensively to meet the sustainability requirements as well as to pay homage to the vocational identity of the Ariake district which was once a timber storage pond. Behind the utilitarian design of the international firms - Nikken Sekkei and Shimizu Corporation, lies their intent to recognize the vernacular architecture of Japan on a global stage that has been made possible with the positive use of timber in almost all elements of the complex - right from the facade and roof frame to the spectator seats. The arena was initially conceived as a temporary venue for the International sports competition but can now also be transformed into a permanent exhibition space after taking out the make-shift spectator stands. The wooden facade offers acoustical properties and thermal insulation making the structure an elegant amalgamation of function and aesthetics.

3. Fumihiko Maki’s Makuhari Messe Hall - 1989

Located in Chiba city, the Messe Hall is a conventional facility that has hosted a multitude of events ranging from art exhibitions to garden shows. Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, the sporting complex now hosts Taekwondo, fencing, and wrestling matches under this Olympic season in 3 different prime zones, namely - the International Exhibition Hall, the International Conference Hall, and the Makuhari Event Hall. Built entirely from precast concrete on a structural steel frame, the Messe Hall also conveniently establishes fluid dynamism. This large-scale structure can host a total of 10,000 individuals in all of its eleven exhibition halls, a conference hall, and an event hall.

The enormous scale of a project of this kind that can easily be named as one of few opulent megastructures has been reduced through thoughtful architecture detailing. These intricate details in cohesion with the overall massive structure create a sense of appreciable wonder to the human eye. With colossal trusses that span over 1800 ft., the structure simultaneously adopts several architectural techniques to curate a comfortable visual experience at a human scale.

4. Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Stadium - 1964

Located in the Shibuya district, the Yoyogi National Stadium was initially conceived to host the first-ever Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo in 1964. The sporting complex can accommodate a generous capacity of 10,000 audience members to its two major efficacious spaces - the main gym and the little gym.

The colossal structure marked the epitome of Tange’s career that later earned him the Pritzker prize in 1987. The form of the sporting complex echoes the visual characteristics of the native Japanese pagoda. In its time, the stadium featured the world’s largest suspended roof structure that interestingly features a convex and concave surface at once - technically termed as a “hyperbolic paraboloid”. Periodic openings and cantilevers on the facade come together to recreate a dynamic levitating structure that helped shape a new eccentric identity for post-war Japan. The stadium has now been repurposed to host badminton, handball, and wheelchair-rugby matches for the 2021 Olympic Games.

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