Architecture Through the Lens of Tokyo Olympics

new national stadium for tokyo olympics
The Olympic rings stand near the new Olympic stadium. Photo courtesy of The Globe and Mail.

Olympic games are the most visible representation of Olympism and a role model for other sports events. That’s why when the curtains are raised on the 2020 Olympics, all eyes will be on Tokyo- not just for the sport but also for the architectural structures.

One notable agenda of this year’s Tokyo Olympics is to have a Legacy Strategic Approach. This Legacy Strategic Approach covers the various ways in which the International Olympic Committee intends to encompass all the tangible and intangible long term benefits initiated or accelerated by the hosting of the Olympics for the people, cities, and the Olympic movement

Currently, the capital is undergoing a significant revamp in the hope of bringing the best-looking and most sustainably-minded Olympics yet. Tokyo’s urban front makes it more special, and as the city gets ready for the much-awaited event, Tokyo Grand Renovation has selected the architectural structures that will entertain the world.


new national stadium at night
Photo courtesy of StillMed

Built on the site of the former national stadium used in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, this 60,000- seater Olympic stadium hailed its “top-level universal design” and “harmony with its surrounding environment” as per Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A master of light and space, architect Kengo Kuma designed the stadium to be a wooden lattice structure along traditional Japanese lines. The use of wooden eaves, a deliberately unimposing design blends into the surroundings of central Tokyo

"For the new Tokyo Olympics stadium, we also tried to combine natural material and new technology. I want to show that even for a big building we can use natural materials," he added. "It can show a new way of designing big buildings." -Architect Kengo Kuma
new national stadium for tokyo olympics 2020
The National Stadium, the main venue for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, features the use of lumber and other Japanese architectural traditions. Photo courtesy of The Star.

The stadium’s facade was designed to look like it’s a collection of small pieces of wood. It consists of overlapping, multi-layered eaves made of wood gathered from Japan’s 47 prefectures, and the roof features a truss structure that combines steel beams and laminated lumber.

rendered version of national stadium for tokyo olympics
Photo courtesy of CDN

However, it is inside the stadium where the magic will happen. Spectators will have great views of the athletes from any of the stands, which are bowl-shaped, three-layered and whose inclination gradually becomes steeper. The interior spaces are designed with warm wooden textures and even the athletes’ dressing rooms use laminated wooden materials.

Tokyo Olympics preparation was indeed top-notch. One goal for the organizers was to have the lowest possible environmental load and it aims to achieve the highest-ranking in CASBEE, a Japanese building environmental performance rating index.


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yoyogi national stadium for tokyo olympics
The gymnasium is the larger of two arenas for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics both of which are designed by Tange and employ similar structural principles and aesthetics. Photo courtesy of Jamie Barras

When the Yoyogi National Gymnasium was being built for the Tokyo Olympics, it was held as the largest suspended roof span in the world. It’s dynamic form and structural expressionism has made the gymnasium one of Kenzo Tange’s most important works, as well as a progressive architectural icon. Today, it is one of Tokyo’s most sought after tourist destinations, while continuing to be an international venue for sports and fashion.

"We Japanese architects, in our endeavors to resolve the problems facing modern Japan, have devoted a great deal of attention to the Japanese tradition, and have, in the end, arrived at the point which I have sought to elucidate for you. If, however, there can be detected a trace of tradition in my works or in those of my generation, then our creative powers have not been at their best, then we are still in the throes of evolving our creativity. I want, by all means, my buildings to be free of the label 'traditional.' –Kenzo Tange


nippon budokan for tokyo olympics
The shining golden Giboshi decorating the center of the roof is a traditional architectural ornament and is lovingly known as “the onion” because of its appearance. Photo courtesy of

Known as the culmination of iconic Japanese design, the Nippon Budokan was built in the former ground of Edo castle in Tokyo. It was first constructed for the Judo competition in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Imposing an octagonal structure, the iconic roof was shaped to resemble Mt. Fuji.  These features give the arena a majestic and truly Japanese aura. It was here that judo first appeared in the Olympics and it will host karate’s tournament debut in 2020.


modern architecture for tokyo olympics
The early completion of the Ariake Gymnastics Center embodies how prepared the Japanese are for the Tokyo Olympics. Photo courtesy of Uta Mukuo

The Ariake Gymnastics Center showcases true Japanese craftsmanship and embodies Japan’s woodworking culture. The surrounding area’s former identity as a timber storage district inspired its design, modeled around the image of wooden ships in the bay.

It has the most intensive usage of timber across all Tokyo 2020 venues, with 2,300m3 of wood sourced from throughout Japan, and it boasts one of the largest timber roofs in the world. Another characteristic is the wooden benches for spectators, which give the venue a feeling of natural warmth.

It is a space with a real sense of freedom. This is a venue that will satisfy both athletes and spectators. -General Manager Koichi Fukui
woodwork for tokyo olympics
Japanese cedar from Shizuoka, Akita, and Miyazaki prefectures was used to create the shape of a wooden vessel with an external concourse similar to an engawa, a Japanese-style veranda. Photo courtesy of Building Co.

The arena will feature a 120-meter-long arched wooden roof — the largest of its kind in the world — and slanted walls inspired by the engawa verandas in traditional Japanese homes. Despite initial plans to use this building only for the Olympics, it will remain as an exhibition hall for a further ten years.


Controversy will always find its way to huge political events like the Tokyo Olympics. One Japanese artist has encouraged the visitors to look beyond the 2020 Olympics and start a conversation about the legacy of the games.

art protest for tokyo olympics
The mirrored ball was installed in the stairway of the Avex Building. Photo courtesy of Dezeen.

The seven-meter high sphere has been placed in the atrium of the Tokyo office made by artist Akira Fujimito and architect Yoko Nagayama. Three numerals the same height of the ball have been placed on the glass facade of the building, and together with the sphere, they spell out the year 2021 when viewed from the street.

"The hot topic is the Olympics, but 2020 is not the goal, 2021 is the start. We should all be thinking together about what we will do after the Olympics, and the future," -Nagayama

Fujimoto pointed out that after the decision was made that Tokyo would host the games, everyone “freaked out” with excitement, but that it is not always wholly beneficial for the host city.

protest art for the tokyo olympics
Fujimoto pointed out that after the decision was made that Tokyo would host the games, everyone "freaked out" with excitement, but that it is not always wholly beneficial for the host city. The installation at the 18-storey Avex Building in west Tokyo forms part of Designart Tokyo, a week-long event that replaced Tokyo Designers Week, and is now in its second year. Photo courtesy of Dezeen.

Olympics has always been an important humanitarian movement. While the stadiums are only the backdrop to the main events,  their design and ingenuity will hopefully prove to be a legacy for the future of Japan as well as a highlight for architecture fans.

The Tokyo Olympics definitely embellishes Japanese craftsmanship. As for Tokyo Grand Renovation, craftsmanship is about the thoughtful details and their execution and will surely leave a first and lasting impression

Tokyo Grand Renovation (TGR) is a design and build specialist when it comes to crafting luxury and functionality in one. Inspired by Japanese philosophy and style, TGR’s headquarters is at 9110 La Campana St. cor. Trabajo St., Brgy. Olympia, Makati City, 1207.   

For inquiries, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 832 16 76, or send an e-mail at

TGRはマカティの高級インテリアデザイン、リノベーション、会社です。TGRは 住宅および商業 スペースの為のデザインと建築を提供 し ております。お問い合わせは 、02832 1676 にお電話いただくか、 電子メール へ送信 お願いします。


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The Ariake Gymnastics Center showcases true Japanese craftsmanship and embodies Japan’s woodworking culture. The surrounding area’s former identity as a timber storage district inspired its design, modeled around the image of wooden ships in the bay.