Wood Wins First at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

Wood Wins First at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

I am a firm believer in the many advantages of wood. Wood is not only highly decorative. Wood is in many cases the building material of choice. This is one reason I was excited to learn that wood is going to play a key role in a building with high visibility: the Olympic stadium in Tokyo for the Summer games 2020 is going to be built predominantly in wood.

Only a few weeks ago, it didn’t look that way: The original design for the stadium had been decided two years ago. At the time the architect Zaha Hadid won a design competition with a monumental and futuristic structure that resembles a bicycle helmet. It was a monument that gave testimony to the hubris often found in modern architecture. It had another flaw, though: the costs were likely to significantly exceed budget. So, a new competition with only two participants from Japan was initiated. The winner is Kengo Kuma, a Japanese architect famous for his work with natural materials like wood. I was fortunate to get to know him personally–which is another reason I am very excited about this decision.

02 Olympic Stadium Tokyo blog

Kengo Kuma won the Spirit of Nature Award in 2002. Other famous recipients of this prestigious award include architects Peter Zumthor and Renzo Piano. Kuma has the philosophy that buildings have to be integrated in their surrounding and must not dominate them. They are intended as modest, pleasing and humane structures that understand and respect the impact of the chosen material on humans. That’s one of the many reasons why he prefers to work with wood. The stadium’s design has a latticed, open framework made from wood and metal. Inside as well as around the building trees and shrubs are planted so it integrates well into the surrounding park. The stadium’s height will be less than 50 meters so it won’t dominate the scenery.

The Olympic stadium is the centerpiece of every Olympic summer games. It is the place where the opening and final ceremony are held, the Olympic marathon ends, and outstanding contests like track and field take place. With this stadium, Kengo Kuma builds a structure that is cheaper, integrates well into the surrounding park and uses wood as key material: an architectural masterpiece (wonder)!

For more information about Kengo Kuma and his work visit http://kkaa.co.jp/

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About the Author

Hans-Joachim Danzer

CEO of Danzer Holding AG

Hans-Joachim Danzer grew up in and around the family hardwood business. He is enthusiastic about the many positive contributions and possibilities of wood. He believes in the power of thinking and looks for solutions that challenge and significantly improve the status quo. If he hadn't joined the Danzer company, most likely he would have become a scientist (physics). He lives with his wife and three kids in the European Alps.