In Norwegian, “under” has the dual meaning of ”below” and ”wonder”. Half-sunken into the sea, the building’s 34-meter long monolithic form breaks the surface of the water to rest directly on the seabed five meters below. The structure is designed to fully integrate into its marine environment over time, as the roughness of the concrete shell will function as an artificial reef, welcoming limpets and kelp to inhabit it. With the thick concrete walls lying against the craggy shoreline, the structure is built to withstand pressure and shock from the rugged sea conditions. Like a sunken periscope, the restaurant’s massive window offers a view of the seabed as it changes throughout the seasons and varying weather conditions.
“Under is a natural progression of our experimentation with boundaries", says Snøhetta Founder and Architect, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen. “As a new landmark for Southern Norway, 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”.
The restaurant seats 35-40 dinner guests every night, in a dining room protected by half a meter-thick concrete walls. Its culinary focus is to create a fine dining experience based on high quality, locally-sourced produce, with a special emphasis on sustainable wildlife capture. Danish expatriate Nicolai Ellitsgaard from acclaimed restaurant Måltid in Kristiansand is the Head Chef, bringing an international, 16-person kitchen team with experience from top Michelin restaurants.
An equally important part of the project is the building’s facilitation of marine research. The restaurant will welcome interdisciplinary research teams studying marine biology and fish behavior, through cameras and other measurement tools that are installed on and outside the facade of the restaurant. The researchers’ aim is to document the population, behavior and diversity of species that are living around the restaurant, through cameras and live observation. The goal of the research is to collect data that can be programmed into machine learning tools that monitor the population dynamics of key marine species on a regular basis, thereby creating new opportunities to improve official marine resource management.
Under is a story of contrasts; the contrast between the landscape and the sea; above and below. The project underscores the delicate ecological balance between land and sea and draws our attention to sustainable models for responsible consumption. By focusing on the coexistence of life on land and in the sea, Under proposes a new way of understanding our relationship to our surroundings – above the surface, under the water, and alongside the life of the sea.
Photo credits: Snøhetta