Kuma denies copying Hadid Olympic stadium design


Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who won the competition to design the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, has admitted there are “certain similarities” to an earlier concept by Zaha Hadid, but denies appropriating her work.

He said there were likenesses between the two proposals but insisted that the “concept is completely different” and “the designs are completely different”.

Kuma’s claims come just days after London-based Zaha Hadid Architects rejected a demand from the Japan Sports Council (JSC) that the company give up the copyright to work completed before the original plan was scrapped in July last year – and agree to what amounts to a gagging order.


The JSC is believed to be withholding a final payment to the company until a revised contract with the additional clauses is signed.

Hadid’s company says numerous components of Kuma’s design are identical to her original work, including the geometry of the stadium bowl, the ground level spectators’ entrance, the internal planning, structural layout, landscape design, access strategies and service access.

“I believe that the design by Zaha Hadid was excellent, with a unique shape and demonstration of her philosophy”, Kuma said in a press conference in Tokyo.

“When we consider the land area for the stadium, the sight-lines for the spectators and regulations on constructions of this type, it is automatic that some similarities will arise.

“And despite the technical details being similar, the concepts are completely different,” he said, pointing out that the “saddle-style” design that won the initial competition in 2012 bears no resemblance to his own round and flat-roofed stadium.

But the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper claims sources close to the British architecture firm say a number of the similarities are simply too unusual to be coincidental – and they point out that the original designs took more than two years to come up with, while Kuma completed his blueprints for the project in just 14 weeks.

In a statement Hadid said she was consulting with legal representatives and the company “will take legal action if our concerns are not promptly addressed to our satisfaction”.

In a statement issued to The Telegraph, the JSC said: “We are currently in negotiations with Zaha Hadid Architects regarding the payment associated with the cancellation of the contract for the previous plan.

“At this moment, the details of the conditions for the procedure are under discussion, including the fee incurred until the cancellation of the contract and other related issues”.

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