18 July 2019
An architectural gem, a futuristic attempt to colonise the hydrosphere or a marine research centre? Under, the new monolithic project by the Snøhetta studio, is all this and more. While at first glance, it might appear “just” to be the first underwater restaurant in Europe, a closer look shows that the building is an invitation to reflect on new perspectives and ways of seeing the world, both above and below water. Working on this structure gave this Norwegian studio an opportunity for further exploration of potential and sustainable balanced relationships with the environment, nature and fauna around us - on our future on this planet.
Located at the most southerly point of the Norwegian coastline, Lindesnes, where the sea storms from north and south and the weather conditions can change from one moment to the next, Under is in a unique position, providing an ideal habitat for the many marine species that flourish at the site, making for exceptional biodiversity. Quite rightly, Snøhetta’s founder, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, describes the project as a “natural progression of our experimentation with boundaries.” Encased in a 34 metre concrete shell, the building lies against the rocky shoreline and slopes to break the surface of the water, resting on the seabed five metres below. The structure, reminiscent of a sperm whale or a wreck washed up on the rocks, was designed to become part of the marine environment over time, thanks to its rough concrete shell, which forms an artificial reef, inhabited by limpets, mussels and kelp.
“Under proposes unexpected combinations of pronouns and prepositions, and challenges what determines a person’s physical placement in their environment. 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,” says Thorsen.
The entrance is connected to the rocky coastline by a gangplank and opens onto a 600 square metre interior, arranged on three descending levels. Floor “zero” contains a reception area and cloakroom, the mezzanine floor contains a champagne bar and a cocktail bar, opening partly onto the floor below, the bottom one, which contains the underwater restaurant which can seat 40, Like a submerged periscope, a 11x3.4 metre picture window looks out over the seabed, providing an ever-changing view according to season and weather conditions. The daylight filtering through the turbid, aquamarine waters creates a hugely atmospheric ambiance. The restaurant, accessed through an oak-lined foyer, boasts textural warm-coloured ceiling panels that merge with the deep blue of the walls. After sunset, the seabed is illuminated by dim artificial lighting, attracting fish to the window, and encouraging the blossoming and development of marine flora. The structure is equipped with underwater cameras and measuring instruments developed ad hoc with the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, enabling scientists and biologists to monitor, study and preserve the local ecosystem.
The renowned Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard runs the restaurant, which offers a zero kilometre fine dining experience with special emphasis on sustainable wildlife capture. The menu features dishes such as tiny newborn lobsters, rare jellyfish, black cod, pollock and other coloured fish from the North Sea. It comes as no surprise that, in Norwegian, the word “under” signifies both “under” and “wonder.”
25R3+7P Høllen, Lindesnes,