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Tokyo Olympics Architecture Shows Off Japanese Timber Craftsmanship

Tokyo gymnastics main

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been delayed until next year, but many of the structures designed for the event are already complete, including some dazzling wooden stadiums, arenas and other structures. The design concept for the event is “wooden vessels in the bay,” and the centerpiece will be architect Kengo Kuma’s Olympic Stadium, an oval-shaped latticed timber structure with a huge oculus opening the track to the sky.

Tokyo olympics stadium
Kengo Kuma wood stadium
Completed in December 2019 and costing about $1.4 billion USD, the 68,000-seat stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies, soccer matches and track-and-field events. Kuma sourced more than 70,000 cubic feet of timber from each of the country’s 47 prefectures for the stadium, highlighting one of Japan’s most popular and sustainable resources.

Tokyo Olympics Ariake Gymnastics Center Tokyo Olympics Ariake timber building

But the stadium isn’t the only timber building calling attention to traditional Japanese wood crafts. Taking inspiration from the site’s former identity as a timber storage district, the Ariake Gymnastic Center is made using more than 24,000 square feet of timber and features one of the largest timber roofs in the world, made of larch wood and cedar. All of these wooden elements will be returned to the prefectures they came from when the Games are over to be reused in other projects.

Tokyo Olympics athlete village timber

Tokyo Olympics athletes village inside

The Athletes’ Village along the Harumi waterfront is made entire of wood, too. Dubbed “Operation BATON,” which stands for “Building Athletes’ Village with Timber Of the Nation,” the plaza was made using 40,000 pieces of wood from sustainable sources, which will also be reused after the Games.


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