Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant

They simply call it “Under”: Snøhettas design for Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant. The project is located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Båly. The restaurant will also function as a research center for marine life – and is introduced by the architects as “a tribute to the Norwegian coast and to the wild fauna of the sea and to the rocky coastline of Norway’s southern tip.”

Half-sunken into the sea, the building’s monolithic form breaks the water surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The architects aim the structure to 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.

Visitor Experience

Plaques will be mounted alongside the trail leading guests to the restaurant entrance at the water’s edge. This informational path also functions as a story board 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. “On a day of rough sea, you can feel a hint of fresh, salty ocean spray against your face as you enter the restaurant”, the architects explain.

The building accommodates 80 – 100 guests on three levels. From the entrance, where the tidepool is swallowed by the sea, guests enter the wardrobe area. From here they are then ushered down one level to the champagne bar – which marks the transition between shoreline and ocean. The 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 a panoramic window.

Materiality

The restaurant’s color palette follows the logic of the stories: 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. The warm oak of the restaurant interior contrasts with the rough concrete shell. The material is chosen for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their sustainable characteristics and ability to create a good indoor climate.

Environmental Considerations

The 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. Muted lighting from the inside of the restaurant and installed on the seabed will help stage the wildlife flourishing on the sandbank outside the 11 x 4-meter panoramic acrylic window.

The restaurant will also function for a team studying marine biology and fish behavior. Researchers will seek to train wild fish with sound signals and will research whether fish behave differently throughout the shifting seasons. This will also help to optimize conditions on the seabed so that fish and shellfish can thrive in proximity to the restaurant.