VOX POPULI: Will society follow architect's lead and criticize new Olympic stadium?

September 25, 2013

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

The sight of ginkgo trees that line the street in front of the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery in Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Gaien, the outer precinct of Meiji Shrine, must be familiar to many people since it has been a location for numerous television dramas. It is regarded as one of the most scenic spots in central Tokyo.

National Stadium stands to the left behind the picture gallery when you look from the tree-lined street. Plans are under way to rebuild the stadium into a gigantic facility that can hold 80,000 people in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Under the slogan “Let’s make ‘No. 1,’” the government plans to build a new stadium that the Japanese people can be proud of.

Hosting the Olympics may be significant, but is such a massive venue really necessary?

World famous architect Fumihiko Maki, 85, who is known for designing the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture and other major facilities, is raising questions about the planned project. His opinion ran in The Asahi Shimbun’s culture page on Sept. 24.

Meiji Jingu Gaien has a historic legacy. But its verdant premises are limited, and the proposed stadium has no place there. The project is also too expensive. “(The government) is under the illusion that it can spend as much money as it likes when it comes to the Olympics,” Maki said. He stressed that he wants as many people as possible to be aware of this problem.

Maki’s question weighs heavily as it does not stop at the propriety of the new stadium. In an essay he contributed to an in-house magazine of the Japan Institute of Architects, he wrote about his experience in Europe. When a city organized a design competition for a music hall, the design that won the top award was voted down in a referendum. In another city, citizens raised their voices to persuade the administration, which was reluctant to restore a theater, to do so.

Maki asks if Japan has such a mature citizen society. We should seize this opportunity to start an active cycle of explanation and debate. When that happens, the Olympics will become all the more significant.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 25

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.
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An illustration of the design for the new National Stadium (Provided by Japan Sport Council)

An illustration of the design for the new National Stadium (Provided by Japan Sport Council)

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  • An illustration of the design for the new National Stadium (Provided by Japan Sport Council)

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