A very unusual restaurant opened on March 20, 2019 in Lindesnes, Norway. Under offers diners an experience of infinite “wonder” and a new perspective on the world around them. The restaurant’s name is a pun: in Norwegian, “under” means both “ wonder/ wondrous” and “below”. This unusual monolithic building designed by Snøhetta is not only the restaurant of a well-known Danish chef, Nicolai Ellitsgaard, but Europe’s first restaurant built below sea level.
In presenting the project, architect Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, one of the founders of Snøhetta, commented that "Under is a natural progression of our experimentation with boundaries" forming a new landmark on the southern Norwegian coast. The restaurant was built on the southernmost point of the Norwegian coast, at an important point of confluence of ocean currents, because Under will be not only a restaurant but a centre for research on wild marine life and on Norway’s rocky coast. The selected area is in fact a site of abundant marine biodiversity, known for its sudden changes in conditions, from calm to stormy seas, sometimes more than once in a day. The building has a thick, rough concrete shell where little molluscs and algae will be able to grow, so that it gradually becomes a manmade part of the rocky coastline. The construction is a monolith 34 metres long resting directly on the bottom of the sea, so that it is submerged for five metres below the level of the water, like an immense periscope resting on the sea bed, permitting observation over time and with the changing seasons. The building’s 50 cm thick concrete walls are designed to withstand the pressure of the water and adverse conditions at sea.
Construction began on a barge, and once the structure and its window and door frames had been completed, it was immersed in water and gradually submerged with a controlled sinking. It was then anchored to the bottom and drained of water before completing work on the interiors.
The architects selected the materials for the interiors with great care and custom-designed furniture and solutions such as the handrails and other finishes. Visitors are taken progressively deeper into the sea with colours, lights and materials that emphasise the sense of mystery and change from the warm colours of sunset to the intensity of deep blue in the dining room.
Client: Lindesnes Havhotell (Stig Ubostad and Gaute Ubostad)
Asplan Viak AS – structural consultants for the entire project
CoreMarine – consultants on wave impact
Drag AS – fire consultants
Brekke & Strand Akustikk AS – acoustic consultants
ÅF Lighting – consultants for lighting and lighting concept indoor and outdoor
Trond Rafoss – marine biologist
Gross area: 495 sqm
The restaurant is situated 5 meters below sea level, and protrudes 10 meters above the water’s surface
Total length of the building: 34 meters
Incline: 20 degrees
Dimensions of horizontal window: 10,8 x 3,43 x 0,27 meters
Weight of horizontal window: 12,3 tons
Location: Lindesnes, Norway
Images courtesy of Snøhetta, photo by André Martinsen (n.2), Ivar Kvaal (1, 3-8,13-20), Inger Marie Grini/Bo Bedre Norge (9-12)