Snøhetta’s “Under” Is Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant

03.27.19 | By
Snøhetta’s “Under” Is Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant

Snøhetta, the architecture firm behind the 1989 library of Alexandria, Egypt, the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo, Norway, and the expansion of San Francisco’s MoMA, has completed Europe’s first underwater restaurant in Lindesnes, Norway. 

Under is a semi-submerged restaurant situated at the Southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline. This unique location is also the confluence of briny and brackish water, sea storms from the North and South, and abundant marine species from sea to shore. As such, the restaurant also functions as a marine research center.

Photo by André Martinsen

The restaurant’s choice of name, “Under” is in fact a smart double entendre; in Norwegian, it means both “below” and “wonder.” The half-sunken restaurant is a 34-meter long volume that interrupts the water’s surface and can be seen from land and from below. And a wonder it will be, when it functions as a merger of natural and built environment, the architects expect the rough concrete shell to become an artificial reef, a new home for limpets and kelp that inhabit these areas. 

Outdoors, dark waves pound and fizz against the concrete shell. Inside, however, the oak-clad foyer is calm, resonant in its silence. Rough wood finishes and the sweet scent of timber are set in contrast to dark steel railings and brass handrails, as you descend into the impressive main dining room on the lowest floor.

The most eye-catching interior feature is the restaurant’s massive window, which, like a sunken periscope, offers a view of the seabed five meters below. The panoramic acrylic window was crafted, manufactured, and installed by Reynolds Polymer Technology to span 36-feet wide by 13-feet tall. The restaurant seats just 35-40 guests and has had so many reservations in its first week of opening (it first welcomed guests on March 20, 2019) that the next availability for a table is in September.

The restaurant will be in a dynamic dialogue with the condition of the seas around it. The menu will inform guests of the biodiversity in the coasts and is set to change in response to the seasons. Not only will marine researchers use the space to study marine biology and fish, Head Chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard and his team will work with these marine biologists to harvest natural ingredients in the sea and surroundings and find sustainable ways to manage marine resources from the sea to table.

This is perhaps the most exciting to me, if it can actually come to fruition: the possibility to not only take in a rarely seen marine ecosystem, and dine within it, but to be so close to local ingredients like sea arrow grass, sea rocket, salty kale, wild mushrooms, succulent berries and countless shellfish — that they can be potentially harvested for a small, well-researched, and ecologically considerate menu.

Photo by Inger Marie Grini/Bo Bedre Norge

Photo by Inger Marie Grini/Bo Bedre Norge

Photo by Fotograf Stian Broch

Photo by Inger Marie Grini/Bo Bedre Norge

What: Under
Where: Bålyveien 48, 4521 Lindesnes
How much? An Immersion menu starts at NOK 2 250 ($263 USD)
Highlights: Under, a semi-submerged restaurant situated at the Southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline, uses marine biology research to bring ingredients to your underwater table.
Design draw: A concrete 34-meter long shell that will grow into an artificial reef for limpets and kelp, as well as a periscope-style dining room with views of the sea bed.
Book it: Visit Under

Photos by Ivar Kaal, unless otherwise stated.

Keshia grew up in Singapore and moved to the U.S. to attend Dartmouth College. When she was living abroad after graduation, a chance enrollment at the Architectural Association Visiting School led to her becoming enamored with door schedules and architectural écriture. She's particularly interested in design for aging, rural architecture, and Asian design heritage.