At the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Båly, in the Lindesness area, Snøhetta, a world renowned architecture group, has designed Europe’s very first underwater restaurant, called UNDER. There are underwater restaurants in other areas of the world, but Under will be Europe’s first.
With its immediate proximity to the ocean’s underwater world, the restaurant will also function as a research center for marine life. It is an architectural tribute to the Norwegian coast – and to its colourful, various undersea life. Under will open in early 2018.
Under’s namesake holds a double meaning in Norwegian: ‘under’ can also be translated as ‘wonder.’ Half-sunken into the sea, the building’s form breaks the water surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. More than an aquarium, the structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water’s surface.
With meter-thick concrete walls, the structure is built to withstand pressure and shock from the rugged sea and Norwegian coastline conditions. Like a sunken periscope, the restaurant’s massive acrylic windows will offer a view of the ocean as it changes throughout the seasons and through varying weather conditions.
The restaurant’s mission will be to inform the public about the biodiversity of the sea, just as its menu will prove the freshest seafood cuisine available.
In addition, and not during open hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to a marine biology research center — welcoming interdisciplinary research teams studying marine biology and behavior. The researchers will also help create optimized conditions on the seabed so that fish and shellfish can thrive in proximity to the restaurant.
Under has been designed with sensitive consideration for its geographic context and aquatic neighbors. The sleek, streamlined form of the building is encapsulated in a concrete shell with a coarse surface that invites mussels to cling on. Over time, as the Mollusk community becomes more dense, the submerged structure will become an artificial mussel reef that functions to naturally attract more marine life to its waters.
The restaurant’s color palette follows the logic of the different stages of construction. The Champagne Bar has aquatic colors inspired by Norway’s coastal zone. This area is inspired with subdued shades of shell and sand. The Dining Room is in darker blue and green, inspired by the seabed, seaweed and rough sea. Materials are chosen not only for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their sustainable characteristics and ability to create a good indoor climate.
The building comfortably accommodates 80-100 guests. Muted lighting from the inside of the restaurant and installed on the seabed will help stage the wildlife flourishing on the sandbank outside the 11 x 4-meter panoramic acrylic window. From the window, guests may derive the sense of the deep, by seeing aquatic life unfolding, as they learn the true meaning of sea change.