In Norwegian, the word ‘under’ possesses the dual meaning of ‘below’ and ‘wonder’. Taking cue from there is Europe’s first underwater restaurant, called Under. Partially submerged in the sea, this fine-dining restaurant, in Lindesnes, has been designed by architecture and design firm Snøhetta, and is located at a unique confluence - at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline, where the North and South seas meet.
The restaurant opened early this year and yields a comprehensive relationship of its surroundings – above the surface, under the water, and alongside the life of the sea, while providing a world-class cinematic and culinary affair to its visitors. Under would also function as a research centre for marine life, staying wondrously true to its name.
The restaurant as an artificial reef
The building’s 34m long monolithic form breaks the surface of the water to rest directly on the seabed 5 m below. The structure has been designed to fully integrate into its marine environment over a period of time, as the roughness of the shell will function as an artificial reef, welcoming limpets and kelp to inhabit it. Lying against the craggy shoreline, the structure’s half-meter-thick concrete walls are built to withstand pressure and shock from the rugged sea conditions.
“As a new landmark for Southern Norway, Under is a natural progression of our experimentation with boundaries,” says founder and architect, Snøhetta, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen.
In this building, you may find yourself under water, over the seabed, between land and sea. This will offer you new perspectives and ways of seeing the world, both beyond and beneath the waterline. – Snøhetta
Under - the construction
The restaurant was constructed as a concrete tube shell, built on a barge 20m off the site, where windows were cut into the skin prior to the submersion. At the time of the submersion, the structure floated on the water’s surface, and was later taken to the site and bolted to a concrete slab anchored to the bedrock. In order to reinforce this joinery, the designers filled the shell with water to make it sink, and once the bolts were completely tightened, the water was drained out. The interior work of the structure began henceforth.
Inside the Under
The unruly outdoors of Lindesnes’s intense weather conditions find a calm nudge as visitors arrive at the restaurant’s oak clad foyer, and from there one can descend into the building through a staircase. Dark, raw steel railings with brass tube handrails connect the three levels of the restaurant - the entrance above sea level, a bar at the mezzanine (where the structure touches the sea) and a 40-seater dining room at the seabed.
The restaurant looks out into the sea through apertures of various sizes, cut into its façade. One such is a sleek vertical slit that extends from above the sea and goes down to the seabed, while the other is an 11m wide, 3.4m high, panoramic window framing the dining area. Around the seating by window, the largely dark interiors of the dining area receive a faint pool of light, like the dramatic turquoise of the sea. The use of midnight-blue textile cladded walls along with adjustable lights on the ceiling panels and window creates a dramatic ambience under water.
Norwegian wood furnishings
Remarkably, the materials have been chosen according to their usage and placement in the restaurant; the entrance and rear areas employ rougher wood finishes that transition into finer swathes towards the heart of the building - the dining room. In partnership with a local carpentry workshop called Hamran, the walls, roof, and floor were all clad in locally harvested Norwegian oak.
Delivering a stunning visual and sensorial experience through its fine dining and architecture, the restaurant Under pays additional consideration to conserve and in due time, accrue marine life, in terms of quality and quantity. The restaurant invites researchers to study marine biology to enable optimal conditions for the aquatic life to thrive in proximity to the restaurant.
The design team at Snøhetta has spun a tale of contrasts – a convergence of rough concrete façades with warm oak and textile interiors. Inherent of life’s variance, the restaurant’s unique design displays a wonderful mélange of the vicious and tender, existing firmly between Norwegian land, air and sea.
Project DetailsName of the Project: Under
Location: Lindesnes, Norway
Client: Lindesnes Havhotell (Stig Ubostad and Gaute Ubostad)
Gross area: 495 sqm
Year of completion: 2019