Tagged Zaha Hadid

What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part III

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, Zaha Hadid © ZHA

Generally speaking, architecture has been around for thousands & thousands of years, ranging from Neolithic to Egyptian, Greek and Roman. It has developed and expanded from numerous cultures, traditions, styles, human impact, periodic times, religion and natural phenomena.  Architecture is naturally one of the oldest crafts of the ‘design’ industry and has continued to be one of the greatest human contributions to society. Architecture is more than just a building, whether it is a private house, an office block or a shopping centre. The craft has the opportunity to become something that impacts people, to create such an impact on society that it becomes a iconic structure, rich with history that redefines the narrative and shape of the urban landscape, becoming a significant, memorable part of people’s lives and remaining timeless throughout the ages. That is part of the power of architecture, so with that in mind, looking back at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Stadium proposal, we can try to understand what Zaha Hadid is trying to achieve through her design.


With it’s overarching curves and contextual dominance, the structure location is said to be in the Jingu area, one of “Tokyo Vision 2020″‘ sport designated areas. The area is nearby Yoyogi Park, located in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, the capital city of Japan. Yoyogi Park is close to Harajuku Station, and other landmarks in the area include the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. The park is noted also for its cherry blossom trees, alongside it’s featured sport courts, bike pathways, bike rentals & picnic areas. The park is also a popular venue for Japanese rock music concerts. The site is also historic for being the location of Japan’s first successful aircraft took flight in 1910, later becoming an army parade vicinity. Projected to be completed by 2019, the stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as sporting events, including athletics, rugby & soccer.  The owners, Japan Sport Council, have plans for the stadium to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019. The Olympic Stadium, as well as most of the other Olympic venues are all located within the ‘Heritage Zone’ & “Tokyo Bay Zone”, each zone approximately 8000m in diameter (https://tokyo2020.jp/en/plan/venue/).


Map of Olympic Zone ©tokyo2020.jp
Map of Olympic Zone ©tokyo2020.jp


In the on-going debate of whether the stadium is ‘worth its weight’ (long-term) in size and cost, many believe it will set a new precedent in reshaping the urban context of the site’s location, bringing social, sporting and economical benefits as well as becoming a lasting legacy for Japan. Without trying to sound to cynical, the general purpose of an Olympic Bid is ‘lasting legacy’ and that’s what becomes the main focus of everything from national support, to funding, to venues. A quote from Tadao Ando (Chairman of the competition panel) states: “The entry’s dynamic and futuristic design embodies the messages Japan would like to convey to the rest of the world. I believe this stadium will become a shrine for world sport for the next 100 years”. Others disagree, such as Fumihiko Maki who mentions: “The problems I see with the planned stadium all relate to the issue of scale”, whilst claiming the design itself it’s at fault but needs to be reduced in size and become more sustainable. There are those who are in favour of the proposal stating that scaling it back in size would cause more problems then necessary: “”The articulation, how [the design] manifests itself, really needs to come from a single vision, otherwise there won’t be authorship, there won’t be an authentic voice behind it…you get that in all good buildings, all good pieces of design”.

Contextual landscape © Tokyo Olympic bid
Contextual landscape © Tokyo Olympic bid


Due to the public outcry of the Japanese public as well as many in the architectural business, the Japan Sport Council have stated that they would scale down the proposed floor plan by one-quarter, according to IBTimes. Reducing the floor area will cut costs down to 180 billion yen, whilst keeping with majority of the design scheme and height estimations, even though many are saying that the reduced cost is still higher then originally pledged during the initial stages. But whether this structure will become a positive influence on the contextual layout and the social impact of the district (and city), only time will tell. There are many buildings that have impacted their respective locations and citizens, but how many buildings have last for hundreds of years that are still with us today? Examples of some buildings that have historical and cultural impact includes the dramatic Sydney Opera House, the prominent Empire State Building, the majestic Taj Mahal, the elegant Louvre and the galactic Cathedral of Brasilia. 

Picture source: seesydneypass.iventurecard.com
Picture source: seesydneypass.iventurecard.com

Name: Sydney Opera House

Location: Sydney, Australia

Architect: Jørn Oberg Utzon

Date: 1959-73


Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/
Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/

Name: Empire State Building

Location: New York City, USA

Architects: Shreve, Lamb and Harmon

Date: 1929-31


Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org
Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Name: Taj Mahal

Location: Agra, India

Architect: Ustad Ahmad Lahauri

Date: 1632–53


Picture source: http://wallpaperstock.net
Picture source: http://wallpaperstock.net

Name: The Louvre

Location: Paris, France

Architect: I.M. Pei (Pyramid)

Date: 12th Century (Palace) 1989 (Pyramid)


Picture source: architecture.about.com
Picture source: architecture.about.com

Name: Cathedral of Brasilia

Location: Brasilia, Brazil

Architect: Oscar Niemeyer

Date: 1958-70

What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part II

Interior render of 2020 Olympic Stadium ©ZHA

Many believe and follow the infamous quote by architect Louis Sullivan; “Form follows function”. He spoke on how a building looked should be secondary to how a building worked. Architectural function can bring another dimension to the building’s overall identity, sometimes even being the primary source of the building’s identity. If we look back at Zaha Hadid’s 2020 Olympic stadium in Tokyo, what are the functional benefits of the structure that makes it so costly? (The original cost proposal at the Tokyo 2020 bid was an estimate of 130 billion yen/£824m according to the In The Games website).

Discussing how a building functions depends on what the main purpose of the building is, whether it is purely for functional use, such as a warehouse, a balance between function and appearance, such as an homeowner’s house, or even to emphasise more on how a building looks, such as the Lloyd’s Building in London, which shows how the building looks from the inside-out. The general function purpose of a building is to create inhabitable spaces for people to occupy, which can range from work & commercial to leisure and personal use. How a building is constructed, kept running, how the spaces integrate, how long the building lasts for, all fall under the ‘function’ category. Other issues such as materiality, methods of heating and cooling, energy costs, load bearing and weather durability are also considered when trying to identify how a building works.

The issue of sustainability is a major factor in how buildings function today, as it can help improve the overall lifespan of the structure, as well as reducing energy costs, improve spatiality comfort, and can even change how a building would look. If we were to take a closer look into the 2020 stadium’s functions, how does Zaha Hadid’s proposal generally work, how it responds to the changing environmental climate and how will the building be profitable and socially responsible?

Even though we may not have detailed information on the building just yet, we know the stadium will hold up to 80, 000 people, as well as being adaptable for various sports, from Athletics, to Football, to Rugby. The stadium’s primary function is to host sporting events & ceremonies, but there will also be exhibition spaces (located within the covered bridge perimeter, think of the Bridge Pavilion for the Zaragoza Expo 2008) for visitors to see. As of now we don’t know how it will contribute to the environment positively or how the building will continue to be thoroughly used or adapt into a reusable function after the 2020 Olympics. Although it must be noted that the original stadium bid proposal was to renovate the current National Stadium but now it will be torn down to make way for the new stadium.

Info-graph of 2012 London Olympic Stadium © London 2012 Games

If we look at previous Olympic stadiums such as the Beijing National Stadium (Herzog & de Mueron, 2003-08) they are still being currently used for major championships such as the Supercoppa Italiana & the 2015 World Championships in Athletics. It has hosted concerts and has proposed plans to include retail and entertainment facilities. It still remains an arguably popular tourist attraction, despite reports of its decline and lack of significant sporting events. The Olympic Stadium of Athens (renovated by Santiago Calatrava, 2002-04) is suggested to be part of the whole Olympics 2004 argument in regards to the source of Greece’s economic decline, with the costs of the Olympics bringing about the nation’s initial plunge into financial crisis. (With a public debt rounding up to €168 billion back in 2004 according to Business Week). The Olympic Stadium in London (Populous, 2007-2011) attempted to create a structure that was good value for money in the long run and was adaptable to possible aftermath use. For example, it used a quarter less steel than what was used for the 2008 Beijing Stadium, surplus & recycled materials and removable components and seating (making it de-constructible for a smaller venue) were a few factors that led claim that the structure is environmentally friendly and not too costly. Again there are arguments that the building isn’t as sustainable or adaptable as originally claimed, but at least the stadium’s attempt to become more environmentally and economically aware are apparent.

We will have to wait and see in a few years to see how Hadid’s 2020 stadium will perform. In the meantime, here are some good examples of how function can become a building’s primary source of identity or how it impacts its appearance: The previously mentioned Lloyd’s Building with its metallic, modern-industrialised presence, it’s French counterpart, the Centre Georges Pompidou, with its colour-coordinated functioning structural components, 30 St Mary Axe’s oddly symmetrical elegance, the infamous Villa Savoye and the environmentally engaging CH2 building in Australia.


Picture source: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2010/186/6/5/Lloyd__s_Building__London_by_DeviantBoz.jpg

Name: Lloyd’s Building

Location: London, England

Architect: Richard Rogers

Date: 1978-86


Picture source: http://audinette.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/centre-georges-pompidou-2.jpg
Picture source: http://audinette.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/centre-georges-pompidou-2.jpg

Name: Centre Georges Pompidou

Location: Paris, France

Architects: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers & Gianfranco Franchini

Date: 1971-77


Picture Source: http://www.nosabesnada.com/uploads/2013/05/30SMA-3.jpg
Picture Source: http://www.nosabesnada.com/uploads/2013/05/30SMA-3.jpg

Name: 30 St Mary Axe

Location: London, England

Architects: Norman Foster

Date: 2001-04


Picture source: http://archikey.com/picture/read/553/Villa-Savoye.jpg
Picture source: http://archikey.com

Name: Villa Savoye

Location: Poissy, France

Architects: Le Corbusier

Date: 1928-31 (Renovated 1963, 1985-1997)




Name: Council House 2 (CH2)

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Architects/Designers: City of Melbourne in association with Mick Pearce with DesignInc

Date: 2004-06