Sneak a Peek at World’s Largest Underwater Restaurant

10/09/2018 | By Adrian Thompson

Why eat somewhere that has a view of the ocean when you can now eat IN the ocean?

At the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Båly, renowned Norwegian architectural and design firm Snøhetta has designed Europe’s very first underwater restaurant. (All images provided by: MIR/Snøhetta)

Under - inside view - under water restaurant

Appropriately named Under, this latest dining experience submerges guests 18 feet below the icy waters of the North Atlantic and invites them to take in a dramatic backdrop of marine life on the ocean floor. 

Under - half-sunken into the sea - underwater restaurant

Half-sunken into the sea, the 110-foot long structure is a colossal concrete slab whose form breaks the water surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. It is Snøhetta’s first time undertaking an underwater project, the firm having also worked on notable projects like the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion and the Times Square public space renovation in New York.

How Under Went Under

Under is unique not only for its location, but also for its form – it looks like a thick, rectangular periscope made out of rough concrete. Because the restaurant needs to be able to withstand the natural forces of the sea and weather, the architectural team from Snøhetta knew that they needed a geometrical shape that could exist with the natural surrounding conditions instead of having one that would challenge them.

Under - aerial view

After wave calculations were verified, the slightly curved rectangular structure, made of thick walls and reinforced concrete, should be able to withstand a thousand-year wave if one were to ever occur.

Appropriately named Under, this latest dining experience submerges guests 18 feet below the icy waters of the North Atlantic and invites them to take in a dramatic backdrop of marine life on the ocean floor. 

Construction on the restaurant began in January 2018, and was carried out on an anchored barge near the location of the restaurant’s final ending point. It took about six months to build and was then towed into position with a heavy lift vessel – once finished, it will weigh around 2500 tons.

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When it was launched into the sea this past July, it was attached with steel rods that were glued into 18 drilled anchoring points in the sea floor. More than half of the finished structure is submerged, and work is now underway to complete the restaurant’s interiors, in anticipation of opening to the public in spring 2019.

Inside Views

The unique restaurant features three levels and will comfortably accommodate 80-100 guests throughout its 5,300-square-foot space.

According to Snøhetta’s website, the entrance, near a tide pool, takes guests into a wardrobe area, where they are afterwards ushered to a champagne bar that is meant to symbolize 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.

Under the sea viewFrom 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 36 x 13-foot panoramic acrylic window.

Gaute Ubostad, initiator and co-owner of Under, reveals that the interior will have a smooth wooden finish, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere that contrasts with the rough concrete exterior. The restaurant’s color palette will also follow the logic of the different stories of construction.

Along with taking its surrounding environment into consideration, Under will welcome Norwegian researchers to study marine biology and fish behavior, who will also help create optimal conditions on the seabed to help marine life thrive near the restaurant.

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.

Snøhetta’s team chose materials not only for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their sustainable characteristics and ability to create a good indoor climate.

Its meter-thick walls will withstand pressure and shock from rugged sea conditions and advanced heating pump technology that utilizes the stable seabed temperature functions to heat and cool the building year-round.

Lighting was also crucial during the design process - the interior lighting is discreet so as to avoid reflections of the restaurant in the panoramic window and outside lighting helps continually provide views of the sandbank during wintertime.

Helping the Environment

More than an aquarium, Under was designed to become a part of its marine environment and with sensitive consideration for its geographic context and aquatic neighbors.

For example, the coarseness of the exterior concrete invites mussels to cling on, which will densify over time, eventually becoming an artificial mussel reef that functions dually to rinse the sea and naturally attract more marine life. The discreet lighting from inside and installed on the seabed will also help wildlife flourish on the sandbank outside the panoramic window.

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Along with taking its surrounding environment into consideration, Under will also welcome Norwegian researchers to study marine biology and fish behavior, who will also help create optimal conditions on the seabed to help marine life thrive near the restaurant.

Largest Underwater Restaurant in the World

While Under is not the first underwater restaurant, it is the largest in the world and Europe’s first, creating lots of excitement and anticipation surrounding its grand opening next spring.

It is currently accepting reservations, although availability is already well into the summer, and guests can expect to enjoy locally sourced seafood from Danish chef, Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen. One can reach Under, located in the Lindesnes region, a variety of ways including bus, train, ferry, car or by air at the closest airport, Kristiansand Airport.

*All images provided by: MIR/Snøhetta


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