Redesigning the Creek

LW Design returned to The Aquarium, Dubai Creek, to transform the space with a contemporary relaxed dining concept much more suited to today’s trend for informality

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  May 7, 2006

|~|Aquarium--body-1.jpg|~||~|Twelve years on from the opening of the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, it was time for its fine dining restaurant, Aquarium, to have a much-needed facelift, at the hands of its original designers, LWD Interiors. The 1993 design was the work of LW founder Lars Waldenstrom, who conceived the idea of having the seafood restaurant positioned around a central circular aquarium.

This concept still remains the focus of the new twenty first century design, but the sedate, formal sophistication of the original Aquarium is now replaced by a casual modern elegance. Numerous design firms went for the contract for the redesign, but it was LW again that won the project, this time from the drawing board of creative partner Jesper Godsk and his team.

Jean Francois Luquer, F&B director, Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club explains: “It was the perfect time for a revamp, the old design was looking quite tired and outdated and we chose LW Group as they did the original designs of the whole building, and so knew it better than anyone else, and their ideas were modern and fresh.” Luquer continues: “We were involved in each stage of the process, but we gave LW quite a free rein with design decisions; we just told them that the aquarium had to remain, and we knew we wanted an open kitchen to follow the trend for centralised show kitchens.”

The first thing LW did was to demolish the central walls, which housed an internal kitchen, “we decided to open this up with glass and make it a show kitchen. This was without doubt the most important change, but also the biggest challenge as the MEP was a massive job as it was an older existing building,” Godsk explains. “Seeing the chefs, where nothing is hidden, gives the diners more confidence in the food and brings life and activity into the restaurant.” Ivan Kousholt was LW’s F&B consultant from Denmark, who worked with Godsk and the clients to develop the concept of a Pacific Rim theme, and how this should be implemented in the design of the open kitchen and the surrounding restaurant.

||**|||~|Aquarium--body2.jpg|~||~|“Obviously chefs should be involved in the design of their kitchen, but this is of vital importance in a show kitchen. From my point of view I want it to be aesthetically perfect and from their viewpoint it needs to be a working, functional space too,” Godsk says. The refurbishment cost Dhs4 million, and Godsk explains that 50% of this budget was spent on the MEP and kitchen, but then this is justified when the kitchen is such a focal point. The show kitchen and all the integrated ice buckets were all custom-made by TSSC; “they’re a fantastic company,” Godsk says.

The other dominant feature in the design is obviously the aquarium itself. “I wanted to stand at the top of the stairs and be able to see the aquarium column in the centre of the restaurant. The aquarium is much more prominent now, people think we changed it dramatically, but just by removing the heavy carpet, installing a wooden deck and painting the ceiling and walls white, the aquarium is immediately given more prominence. The wood and white reflect the light of the water, which makes it more dramatic,” Godsk explains.

The marble used for the tables and bar is Calcutta Oro, the wood is timber-stained mahogany and the maritime flooring is Jatoba flooring. He chose the colour Ivory Royal Beige for the marble flooring in the bar and lobby. “If we went for completely wooden flooring, it would have seemed too overpowering, and in an area with such heavy traffic like a bar, marble is a better choice. The wooden deck though is the only nod to the maritime theme, the view over the marina and the central aquarium are more subtle hints at the aquatic.”

||**|||~|Aquarium-body3.jpg|~||~|The graphic painting of the fish at the top of the stairs makes a huge visual impact as you come up the stairs. “I saw a similar artwork in Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in London and knew that it would be perfect here,” Godsk says. The same graphics are used behind the bar, but the effect is completely different as it is viewed at a shorter range. The tall bar stools and oversized armchairs in the lounge area create a sense of theatrics and drama. He explains: “I am a massive fan of Philippe Starck and a lot of the furniture and décor is Starck inspired. I love his simplicity and casual elegance, and I think this is particularly evident in my approach to this redesign.”

Lighting was also incredibly important, Godsk chose originals from Frandsen in Denmark, which are metal frames with mother of pearl detail, they opted for matching floor lamps and pendants which have mother of pearl discs on three ring metal frames suspended in flex. They also knew that candlelight was going to be a key element in the lighting scheme, in addition to the light generated from the aquarium, and the inlaid ice buckets in the tables.

Renowned for its masculine designs, LW implemented arguably feminine touches in this design, an example being the soft sheer fabrics. The curtains are there for three purposes: to break up the monotony of plain walls; to soften the acoustics — with the floors being wood and marble noise can be reflected, but by introducing materials the sound becomes muted, and finally to subliminally segregate the areas. The whole renovation took four months to do, and as Luquer explains, the new design has had an overwhelmingly positive response: “We have had very great feedback from our regulars. The days of diners wearing ties are over and this new restaurant design reflects a more casual age, where clients want a relaxed elegance not a stiff formality.” ||**||

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