This article originally appeared as part of our January 2019 print issue in the timber feature.

Kengo Kuma’s $1.4 billion National Stadium is over 25 percent complete and should open in November 2019 for six months of testing before the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics kickoff. The three-tiered stadium is expected to seat 68,000 during the games and 80,000 when it’s converted into a home field for the Japan National Football Team.

Utilizing a half-covered roof and an abundance of overflowing greenery, Kuma’s flat structure is a far cry from the yonic stadium designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, which was originally chosen in 2015. The distinct layers and open-air columns of Kuma’s stadium are references to the 1,300-year-old Gojunoto pagoda at Horyuji Temple in Ikaruga, the oldest timber building in the world.

Kuma has pledged that the stadium will source over 70,000 cubic feet of larch and cedar wood from nearly all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with an emphasis on areas hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Rendering of Japan's 2020 National Stadium

The center of the stadium has been left open both to allow in natural light and to create a chimney effect where hot air can escape. (Courtesy Japan Sport Council)

The steel roof over the ovoid stadium will be supported by a lattice of exposed timber beams and joists. Kuma has rimmed the track and field building with open-air loggias and clad the edges in a screen of vertical wood, creating a breezy, naturalistic setting that’s perfect for the summer games. It’s not all smooth sailing for the Tokyo 2020 commission, however, as the U.S.-based Rainforest Action Network has accused the group of sourcing endangered tropical timber from Malaysia and Indonesia to build the 2020 stadiums. A Tokyo 2020 spokesman has denied the claims, but the commission is working to further tighten up its sourcing standards regardless.

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