Architecture, Dubai architecture, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, GAJ, Godwin Austen Johnson

25 year anniversary: A look back at Brian Johnson’s Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club

January 28, 1993 marks the day the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club opened to the public, with this week celebrating 25 years since its completion.

Images supplied by Godwin Austen Johnson

The building, designed by British architect Brian Johnson, who heads Dubai-based firm Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ), has become one of the most iconic structures in the emirate – so much so that it has even been emblemised on the 20 Dirham note.

Designed to reflect a modern interpretation of a traditional dhow in full sail, it captures the essence of Dubai’s seafaring traditions as well as the majesty and simplicity of the lateen-rigged dhows sailing up and down the city’s coastline.

“I knew from my experience of working with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum on the design of the Emirates Golf Clubhouse three or four years earlier that he would prefer an architectural style that would reflect Dubai. So after visiting the site, which was adjacent to the Creek, I decided to base the design on the shape of the lateen sail of the traditional racing dhows that were such a thrill to watch,” Johnson said.

Commenting on the challenges of adopting the lateen rig shape, Johnson said: ““My first sketches all seemed to have more than a passing resemblance to the Sydney Opera House which has been described as being based upon the shape of a sail.

“I got round this by taking account of the fact that every surface of the Opera House is curved  so I decided to make every surface of the new building flat, which in fact it is.

“The next problem was that I wanted the building to look like a lateen sail from every direction but no matter how many ways I drew it or how many sketch models I made, I just couldn’t come up with something that worked until I came up with the idea of having multiple sails that would achieve what I was trying to do,” Johnson explained.

Johnson has also designed other prominent buildings in the city including Bab Al Shams, the Royal Mirage, and recently Al Seef- a development on Dubai Creek.

designMENA had interviewed Johnson back in 2013, where he spoke about building an architecture career in Dubai from the 1970s.