The largest underwater restaurant in the world is nearing completion


Five meters below the surface of the North Sea, near the southernmost tip of Norway, Europe's first submarine restaurant is approaching. The 110-foot structure, a sloping concrete slab that looks like a submerged inset, sunk in July 2018, and work is ongoing to complete the interior, pending public opening in the spring of 2019.

The restaurant, called Under, is the Norwegian Snøhetta outfit, which has made a name for itself with works such as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, the Oslo Opera House, the Memorial National Pavilion on September 11 and its renovation Times Square in New York.

When completed, the construction will accommodate about 100 visitors, with a total interior surface of approximately 500 square meters (5,300 square feet), located on three levels, offering a unique view of the underwater environment of the marine environment through a panoramic 11 meter wide window.

Underneath

The restaurant was built in about six months on a barge near the coast, and then trailed in place – about 600 feet away – with a heavy lift ship. In order to submerge the structure, internal containers filled with water were placed before being fixed to the floor with a total of 18 anchor points.

Under construction. Credit: Aldo Amoretti

"It was a fine business as the clearance to cover bolts was just two inches," said Rune Grasdal, senior architect at Snøhetta, at a press conference.

More than half of the construction is submerged and visitors will gain access via a glass pane that will bridge the gap between the coast and the entrance, which will be on a coastline.

Below it is made of reinforced concrete, to withstand the harsh conditions found at this point on the Norwegian coastline. "The first problem is the water pressure as we are five meters below the surface, but the biggest challenge is the waves where the winds and the waves are extreme, it can get better in waves and is thick: half a meter concrete and about 30 centimeters for acrylic windows, "said Grasdal.

An artist's impression of the finished restaurant. Credit: Snohetta

A simple plan

The decision to place the restaurant in an area that fell from the data was advisable. "When the customer came to us, they had already made some sketches elsewhere near today, but we tried to build them at a distance of a few hundred meters where the sea is actually more rugged. the area and I think that's what makes it more impressive than other underwater restaurants in the world as they are in very controlled areas, "said Grasdal.

The customer, the developers Gaute and Stig Ubostad, also operates a hotel a short distance from the restaurant. They both sit in the Lindesnes area, where Norway's oldest beacon is located, a popular tourist attraction located on the southernmost tip of the mainland. Getting here is not very easy: the best way is to get to a short flight from Oslo to Kristiansand, the nearest airport, which is about an hour away. Grassland said a vessel service is in the works.

The design of the structure has also been subject to several revisions. "Initially, we spent a lot of time in very intricate designs, but after a long conversation and many different models we ended up doing things in a much simpler way. It's just a specific pipe that brings people down the land, it's so simple, when we came to this conclusion, it was really a relief, "said Grasdal.

A detail of the construction site. Credit: Aldo Amoretti

A slight touch

To ensure the safety of visitors, an analysis was made to study the wave propagation and load, and the 2.500-ton structure was designed to withstand the most extreme events. The data will also be returned to the visits of research teams studying marine biology and fish behavior. Work has been done to restore the conditions that existed prior to the disruption created by the sinking of the structure, and the concrete has been designed to invite mussels to cling to it and to get confused in the surrounding nature.

The tasting menu, created by Danish head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen, is still wrapped but will be based on local seafood, although mushrooms, berries, various seabirds and wild sheep are offered from the surrounding landscape.

From the central window to the dining room, which is 4 meters (13 feet) tall, guests will be able to observe a variety of fish and seafood, including stamps and lobsters. Basic for this view is the lighting, which is carefully designed for both the interior and the dune just outside. "Exterior lighting is very important because in winter and evenings it will be dark and without any light you will only see the reflection of the restaurant in the window," said Grasdal.

An artist's impression of the dining room. Credit: Snohetta

The interior lighting is silent and discreet to avoid such reflection and the colors are selected accordingly, with oak wood and fabric covering the walls to avoid intense white spots.

"It is a magical feeling that you are in a large room like this and you are seeing the sea through the huge window." What is surprising is that some of the illustrations we have illustrated very carefully what is going to be, "said Grasdal.

The restaurant is booked from April 2019, although availability is already limited in the summer. According to Grasdal, however, the best way to schedule a visit looks at the weather forecast. "I think the most exciting experience will be to visit the restaurant during the wild weather," he said.

"It will be fantastic to see the surface of the sea split from the great waves and the rain, creating a very dramatic view – although you will still feel safe and relaxed in the restaurant."