Architect Zaha Hadid is not known for designs that seamlessly weave themselves into the fabric of the communities that surround them. Instead, her defiant silhouettes have mirrored a defiant attitude toward critics who have shaken their fists at her perceived complicity in forced evictions, treacherous working conditions, and monopolization of public resources.
Now, her eponymous architecture firm is finally bowing to pressure in the wake of protests staged over the weekend at the site of her planned design for the 2020 Olympics stadium in Tokyo. Five hundred people took to the streets on Saturday, hand in hand, to voice their displeasure with the $1.7 billion project, which will displace public housing residents and dwarf Kenzo Tange's landmark 1964 Olympic stadium. This followed an online petition, started by the high-profile architects Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki, to halt the construction of the arena.
“The new stadium design was outsized and an infringement,” Karen Severns, an independent architectural scholar who joined the protest, told the Japan Times.
"I hope that this protest is successful in shrinking the design to fit the context," architect Sou Fujimoto, also at the protest, told the Architects’ Journal. “I'm not fighting Zaha. The competition for the stadium was very rigorous and we can't overturn everything. But the design could be better."
Hadid is conceding the point. A firm spokesperson says Hadid will be editing the design in order to “optimise the investment and make the stadium even more efficient, user-focused, adaptable, and sustainable.”
But so far, details are scarce—and the stadium’s size and location remain unchanged. “Its scale is a direct correlation to the project brief's seating capacity of 80,000,” the firm said.
The stadium, set for completion in 2018, will host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as a variety of athletic events.