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The Danish architectural and landscape workshop Snøhetta has designed Europe’s very first underwater restaurant in the coastal village of Baly, Norway. The building which is half on the coastline, half sunken underwater, will also house a marine life research centre. The concrete box invites mussels to cling on the structure and attract even more marine life.  Featuring the look and feel of a James Bond film set, the project is a tribute to the Norwegian coast and allows it’s guests to experience the country mysterious marine ecosystem. All of Snøhetta work is committed to social and environmental sustainability.

At the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Båly, Snøhetta has designed Europe’s very first underwater restaurant. Semi-submerged beneath the icy waters of the North Atlantic in Lindesnes, guests are invited to dine five and a half meters below the surface – the panoramic view of the ocean floor providing the dramatic backdrop. In harmony with Snøhetta architectural & design company and other experienced local partners, we are creating an iconic structure complete with an immersed gourmet restaurant. The menu focuses on seafood, but you will also find local specialties gathered from the woods, the garden, underwater and the beach. Head chef Ellitsgaard and his team are preparing innovative seasonal dishes that capture the essence of the pristine Norwegian coastline on the southern tip of Norway. 

With its immediate proximity with the forces of nature, the restaurant, which will also function as a research center for marine life, is a tribute to the Norwegian coast and to Lindesnes – to the wild fauna of the sea and to the rocky coastline of Norway’s southern tip. Under’s namesake holds a double meaning: In Norwegian, “under” can just as well be translated into “wonder.” 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 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 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. Through its architecture, menu and mission of informing the public about the biodiversity of the sea, Under will provide an under-water experience inspiring a sense of awe and delight, activating all the senses – both physical and intellectual.

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 densifies, the submerged monolith will become an artificial mussel reef that functions dually to rinse the sea and naturally attract more marine life to its purified waters. Informational plaques will be mounted alongside the trail leading guests to the restaurant entrance at the water’s edge. This informational path tells a story about marine biodiversity and the Norwegian coast, weaving the narrative of the site into the overall restaurant experience, and ends at a ramp up to the restaurant. Here, the entrance is clad in untreated, locally sourced oak that will eventually fade into grayish tones, harmonizing with the raw concrete. On a day of rough sea, you can feel a hint of fresh, salty ocean spray against your face as you enter the restaurant.

As visitors begin their journey through the restaurant they descend through three levels. From the entrance, where the tidepool is swallowed by the sea, guests enter the wardrobe area. Visitors are then ushered down one level to the champagne bar, which marks the transition between the shoreline and the ocean. 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.

 

Light attracts fish

When visiting under, you will have the chance to discover the rich diversity of marine life found in the immediate area. According to Rafoss, his research colleague Kim Halvorsen, who recently got his PhD- in the study of Lip Fish, discovered that the fish respond to both sound and light. During his research he found that zooplankton, which are small organisms drifting in the ocean, often eaten by fish, are attracted to light. While the plankton swirled around in the illuminated area of the sea, the fish gradually equated the light as a place where they could find food.  

“Thus, by adding light to the area around the submerged restaurant, we can attract fish. In addition, the light will make observing the marine life at night, easier for the guests”, says Rafoss. He believes the restaurant is located in a perfect place, also from a marine biological standpoint. “There are so many species living here – the diversity is quite extraordinary. This is due to the fact that this is the area where water from the less salty Baltic Sea, meets the salty Atlantic Ocean. The result is a diversity of species, consisting of those who thrive in partly brackish water, and those who prefer saltier conditions”, continues Rafoss.  

Although the Lindesnes area offers great conditions for many species, unpredictable Mother Nature has her twists and turns. Therefore, the researchers work tirelessly to find solutions that will improve Mother Nature´s magnificent blueprint. For example, by putting out underwater rope, we can create new environments for shells to grow. Shells have a unique ability to make the water clearer, since they filter it when finding food.  The water becomes clearer when microalgae and zooplankton is eaten by mussels. The marine biology team are also planning on providing more structure to parts of the seabed, by for example, adding more rocks in certain areas. In doing so, they increase the environment for organisms growing on rocks, which in turn provide food and shelter for many other species.

Rafoss thinks that the guests will be intrigued and fascinated by the diverse marine life around the restaurant. “One other fun fact is that there is also a brief season of the year when sharks can be found in the area. They are not large in size, but they are bountiful in number. We are working to find a way we can attract them to swim close to the restaurant window as well”, he concludes.

Opening Spring 2019.

Snøhetta has also designed Under’s website. For more information, see under.no.

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