By spring of 2019, a restaurant near the southernmost point of Norway will open- and it will be five meters under water. The first-ever underwater restaurant in Europe is aptly named “Under”. The structure is a 110 foot imposing concrete behemoth that was submerged into place in July, and work on the interior has started. In the end, the 5,300 square foot restaurant will accommodate 100 guests across three floors and offer underwater views out of a 36 foot panoramic window.
The concrete structure was constructed on a barge that was towed into position after completion. Using a heavy-lift vessel, the structure was then submerged into its final position and anchored to the sea floor at 18 different points.
The unique design is the work of Snøhetta, a Norwegian design firm. They’ve built up their resume with the Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt, the Oslo Opera House, National September 11 Memorial Pavilion, and the renovation of Times Square in New York, but “Under” marks the first time that they’re building down.
Rune Grasdal, a senior architect at Snøhetta, said the operation was delicate, as the margin for error when submerging the structure was only two inches. The design also had to account for water pressure, wind, and waves. The weather conditions on the coast can be extreme, and so the structure’s exterior is slightly curved. This eases the force with which the waves hit the structure. The reinforced concrete is 18 inches thick, and the windows are 12 inches.
The client, developers Gaute and Stig Ubostad, originally chose a different site where the sea conditions were calmer. Snøhetta convinced them otherwise, believing that the rougher conditions of the site they eventually chose would make “Under” stand out. Other underwater restaurants around the world are typically in very controlled environments. Snøhetta felt the choppy conditions better captured the nature of the area and will provide guests with a more spectacular experience.
Careful attention was given to the lighting too. What good is being underwater if you can’t see underwater? Guests will want to see the fish swimming through and plant-life of the North Sea. As a solution, the sandbank just outside the main window will be illuminated to ensure visibility year round. In the winter particularly, daylight is extremely limited in Norway so exterior lighting was essential. The lighting inside also required careful strategy. The design team had to be careful that the inside of the panoramic window was not one giant reflection of the lighting. They strategically placed muted and discreet lighting around the interior and then used wood and fabric to cover certain areas to eliminate any reflection of the lighting.
The restaurant is now taking reservations for their scheduled opening in April 2019. Grasdal predicts the best way to plan a visit is by checking the weather forecast, expecting the best experience will be during rough weather.
World Brief is written by Aaron Miller for WorldFootprints.com