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Europe’s first underwater restaurant by architectural practice Snøhetta

DEC 13, 2019 | By Aneesha Bhadri
Under, designed by Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, is a 34 metre long structure that breaks the surface of the water to rest directly on the seabed five meters below
Under was built on a barge as a concrete tube shell twenty meters from the site. During submersion the structure floated on its own and was delicately moved to its final location by a separate crane and tugboats. The building was bolted to a concrete slab anchored to the bedrock beneath the seabed
The structure’s thick concrete walls are built to withstand pressure and shock from unpredictable maritime conditions
380 LED lamps are installed on the ceiling panels, illuminating the dining area with subtle light that can be easily adjusted to respond to differing light conditions inside and outside
Half-sunken into the sea, the structure is designed to fully integrate into its marine environment over time, as the roughness of the concrete shell will function as an artificial reef, welcoming limpets and kelp to inhabit it

Feast on delicious Norwegian delicacies as you watch marine creatures drift lazily in blue waters, a few feet away from you. Europe’s first underwater restaurant, embedded in the southernmost spot of the Norwegian coastline, opened its doors this year. Crafted by multidisciplinary design and architecture firm Snøhetta, Under—Norwegian for ‘below’ as well as ‘wonder’—is a 34m long and half submerged monolithic form, with an 11m wide fully emersed window that offers enchanting views of the ever-changing seabed and aquatic life.

Lying against the craggy shoreline, the structure’s thick concrete walls are built to withstand pressure and shock from unpredictable maritime conditions. Like a sunken periscope, the restaurant offers stunning views of the changing seasons, with the colour of the water shifting from a cool, sapphire blue during a chilly winter day, to hazy, emerald green in the summer months, when the algae set in. “Under is a natural progression of our experimentation with boundaries,” says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, founder and architect of Snøhetta. “In this building, you may find yourself under water, over the seabed, between land and sea. This will offer you novel perspectives of the world, both beyond and beneath the waterline.”

Reflecting the ever-changing nature of the colours of the sea, the bespoke interiors follow the shifting hues from a sunset pink to sea green and midnight blue

Upon setting foot indoors, one’s impressions of the rugged, wild outdoors undergo a transformative change—the hushed foyer marks the smooth transition from rough, wooden finishes, with the sweet, lingering scent of timber to elegant, oak clad interiors with furniture exclusively designed for the restaurant. Raw steel railings with brass tube handrails lead downwards to a refined enclave, where the oak ceiling morphs into sumptuous, textile clad interiors. The bespoke textiles that stretch over custom acoustic panels follow the subtly shifting colours of the sun setting over the ocean, accompanying one’s passage down the stairs—the colour deepens from a sunset pink, intense coral and sea green into a midnight blue as one reaches the dining room.

In close collaboration with Hamran, a local carpentry workshop that has cultivated its renowned craftsmanship since 1930, the walls, roof, and floor are all clad in locally harvested Norwegian oak

 

Textured wooden finishes and the sweet scent of timber characterise the entrance of the dining area

The culinary ideology of the restaurant is in sync with that of the building itself. Dining at the restaurant is a journey through the landscape of its locality, Lindesnes—from locally harvested seafood, shells and kelp to wild meat procured during the game season in late fall. Under also functions as a research centre for marine life, as a tribute to the wild fauna of the sea and the rocky coastline of Norway’s southern tip.

The sophisticated lighting system carefully minimises the reflectivity of the panoramic window and highlights the view of sea life outside the restaurant

 

On the mezzanine level and bar area, where the structure touches the sea, a vertical window is cut into the side of the building, extending from above sea level down to the seabed. The window reveals the convergence of sea and air, with the volatile waterline dancing to the intensity of the wind

 

Aequorea victoria, also known as Crystal Jellyfish, as seen through the vertical window between the mezzanine and seabed level

 

The restaurant’s cuisine pays homage to its locality, Lindesnes—from locally harvested seafood to wild meat procured during the game season in late fall