Snøhetta to design ‘Under’, Europe’s first underwater restaurant that will double as a research center

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It is not often that we hear the terms research center and upscale restaurant in the same sentence. Well, design firm Snøhetta plans to not only combine the two but fuse them with flair, in the form of the ‘Under’, a state-of-the-art underwater structure to be constructed on the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline (near the village of Båly). According to the designers, the establishment, with its capacity to serve 80-100 patrons, is a tribute to the rocky nature and wild fauna of Norway’s celebrated coastline.

Now to start things off, the very name Under is a play on words, with its English meaning alluding to ‘something being submerged’, while its Norwegian meaning relating to ‘wonder’. The designers said –

Half-sunken into the sea, the building’s monolithic 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 seabed 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 conditions. Like a sunken periscope, the restaurant’s massive acrylic windows offer a view of the seabed as it changes throughout the seasons and varying weather conditions.

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Interestingly enough, Under, in spite of may seem like an alien structure in a natural habitat, will incorporate some part of the geographic context to function as an ‘organism’ at the site. The establishment will do so with its specialized meter-thick concrete layers with coarse surface textures. The substantial thickness will handle the sea pressure, while the latter feature will be conducive to mussels for clinging onto the surface. And thus over time, such colonies with their increasing densities can actually transform the monolithic structure into an artificial mussel reef. The reef, in turn, with their biological acumen can aid in cleaning the water, which could lead to the formation of even more colonies of other marine organisms in the vicinity.

The blending with the locale will extend to the restaurant’s use of locally sourced oak that will replicate the grayish tones of the untreated concrete. This color attribute will also be found in other spatial elements, according to the designers –

The restaurant’s color palette follows the logic of the different stories of the construction. While the champagne bar is characterized by colors inspired by the coastal zone, with its subdued colors evoking the sediment of shells, rocks, and sand, the dining room is submerged in darker blue and green colors inspired by the seabed, seaweed, and rough sea.

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Suffice it to say, the tonal variety inspired by sea will be complemented by the design and the views offered by Under. Snøhetta clarified –

Visitors are then ushered down one level to the champagne bar [from the entrance and wardrobe area], which marks the transition between the shoreline and the ocean. This physical transformation is emphasized by a narrow acrylic window cutting vertically down through the restaurant levels. From the bar, guests can also look down at the seabed level of the restaurant, where two long dining tables and several smaller tables are placed in front of the large panoramic window.

And finally, the conscientious side to the Under relates to its ‘dual’ usage as a marine biology research center that will function outside the operating hours of the main restaurant. The underwater establishment will feature informational plaques for creating awareness for marine biodiversity among the guests, while the researchers at the center will work towards creating an efficient (and inclusive) localized marine environment to allow the sea organisms to thrive in the vicinity.

The project is currently undergoing construction, started from the year 2017.

Source / Images Credit: Snøhetta

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