Japanese architect incorporates tsunami timber into Olympic stadium design

Japanese architect incorporates tsunami timber into Olympic stadium design

Trailblazing and award-winning Japanese architect Kengo Kuma is known for marrying traditional Japanese building methods and aesthetics with new millennium technology and materials, especially wood. Since the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, he has questioned the merit of utilising steel and concrete over wood. Today, 65-year-old Kuma passionately champions the use of wood in design and construction. In an incredibly ambitious career highlight, he is presiding over Tokyo’s three-tiered National[G11]  Stadium project, scheduled for completion in November 2019, and estimated to cost $1.4 billion USD. More than 70,000 cubic feet of larch and cedar wood have been sourced from almost all of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with specific focus on regions most significantly impacted by the quake and tsunami.

Commissioned for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the stadium’s cake-like layers and open-air columns take their cues from the world’s oldest timber building, also in Japan, the 1,300-year-old Gojunoto pagoda of the Horyuji Temple in Ikaruga. A lattice of exposed timber beams and joists will support the open steel roof and are intended to infuse the entire aesthetic with a summery, organic feel.

Other World Projects


In 2018, Mr Kuma also designed six exquisite two-storey Tsubomi Villas for an eco-tourism property in Bali. He created the elegant wooden-slatted structures to resemble a flower bud opening in nature. The sweeping curves and airy gaps between the louvres deliver visual and sensory pleasure in the hot, tropical climate.

Another Kuma project set to be completed in 2019 is the Omm-Odunpazari Modern Museum in Turkey, a cluster of stacked and interlocked slatted timber blocks on the site of an old wood market. And right here in Australia, with the $3.4 billion redevelopment of Darling Harbour, we will look forward to The Darling Exchange, a round six-story building encircled in 20,000 metres of sustainably sourced timber ribbons to resemble a hive. A civic space featuring a food hall, restaurants, bar and the state-of-the-art City of Sydney library, it is destined to be a memorable landmark.

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