The design for Qatar's Al-Wakrah 'vagina' stadium. Zaha Hadid says it is inspired by Arab dhows
The design for Qatar’s Al-Wakrah stadium. Zaha Hadid says it is inspired by the sails of Arab dhows – others say it just looks like a vagina. Photograph: AECOM

One looks like a futuristic bicycle helmet, stretched across its Tokyo site in an aerodynamic sweep. The other has been said to resemble a vagina, rising out of the Qatari desert in a great vulvic bulge.

Both are in fact sinuous sporting stadiums by the London-based Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who is facing calls for her exuberant designs to be scaled back.

This week Japanese sports officials finally bowed to growing criticism that Hadid’s scheme for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium was too big and too expensive, saying they would shrink the design by a quarter.

The 80,000-seat venue, planned for the site of the current 48,000-seat national stadium, built in 1958, is described by Hadid as “light and cohesive”, its structure forming a dynamic bridge that “creates an exciting new journey for visitors”.

But the design has been met with fury by Japanese architects, who have complained that it is grossly insensitive to its context, looming 70 metres above the area of low-rise buildings and parks in the west of the city, close to the Meiji shrine, where a 15-metre height limit is in force.

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Oliver Wainwright
Guardian

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