27 March 2019

Snøhetta has
completed Under, the “world’s largest underwater restaurant”,
which plunges from a craggy shoreline in the remote village of Båly, Norway.

Designed by Snøhetta to
resemble a sunken periscope, the 495-m2 restaurant is fronted
by a huge panoramic window that gives visitors a view of marine life.

The building, on Norway’s southern coast, can seat
up to 40 people and will also be used as a marine research centre. It is
Europe’s first underwater restaurant.

“For most of us, this is a totally new world
experience. It’s not an aquarium, it’s the wildlife of the North Sea. That
makes it much more interesting. It takes you directly into the wildness,”
Rune Grasdal, said lead architect of Under.

Under was designed to be as simple as possible. It
takes the form of a monolithic concrete tube 34 m in length.

The walls are slightly curved and half-a-metre
thick, providing optimal resistance against the forces of waves and water

“The idea was to make a tube that would bring
people from above sea level down under the sea,” Grasdal added.

The concrete has been left with
an exposed, rugged texture to encourage algae and molluscs to cling
on. Over time this will create an artificial mussel reef that helps purify
the water, and in turn naturally attract more marine life.

Under is accessed by an untreated oak-clad
entrance. Over time it will fade into grey tones to complement the raw

The oak continues inside the building, where the
interior finishes are intended to contrast with the exterior, creating a warm
atmosphere that prevents the feeling of claustrophobia.

The restaurant has three levels including a foyer
and cloakroom, champagne bar, and main restaurant on the lower floor. They are
joined by a giant oak staircase.

The focal point of the restaurant is its panoramic
acrylic window, which can be seen from each level within the building. It
measures 11 x 3 m, spanning the length of the restaurant wall.

To enable visitors to observe this sea life through
the acrylic windows at night, Snøhetta has teamed gentle lighting on the seabed
with muted interior lighting.

Furniture throughout Under is bespoke. Charred oak
tables are teamed with angular chairs and ceramics designed by a local artist
using sand from the seabed.

Through its architecture and menu, Under is also
intended to inform the public about the biodiversity of the sea.

Out of hours, it will double as a lab for marine
biologists to study fish behaviour, specifically their reactions to light,
whether it is possible to train wild fish with sounds, and also whether fish
act differently in different seasons.

Snøhetta is an architecture and design studio founded in 1989 by architects Craig Dykers and Kjetil Trædal Thorsen. It has offices in Oslo, New York City, San Francisco, California, Innsbruck, Austria, Singapore and Stockholm.

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