Oslo-based architecture and landscape-design house Snøhetta this week unveiled renderings of “Under,” a semi-submerged restaurant that will lean against Norway’s craggy southern coast in the tiny village of Båly.
This ambitious project won’t be the world’s first undersea eatery—the Conrad Maldives Rangali resort’s tube-shaped Ithaa restaurant opened last year—but it will be a first for Europe, and in its architectural significance and ecological focus, it seems closer to a national monument than a tourist-attracting novelty act.
Snøhetta designed Under’s three-foot-thick concrete walls—the outside of which will be left intentionally coarse to serve as an artificial reef for mussels—to endure southern Norway’s famously pounding winter storms. From its ground-level entrance, the building guides guests down to a champagne bar, where a slender vertical window reveals the transition from tide pool to sea. From there, the dining room—and the open ocean—loom below.
Of course, the centerpiece of the project will be the dining room’s ginormous window, 17 feet below the surface of the North Sea. Like a giant dive mask, the 36-by-13-foot acrylic panel will give diners a panoramic view of the sandy seabed and its delicious inhabitants (with muted interior and exterior lighting designed to encourage fishy visitation).
Fortunately, unlike some spectacle restaurants, Under is earnestly promising cuisine worthy of its spectacular view. Its proprietors have engaged Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen, formerly of the acclaimed Restaurant Måltid, to create a seafood-centric menu that makes generous use of local produce—some of it foraged from nearby forests and some of it gathered from an undersea garden.
As standalone restaurant projects go, Under is undeniably impressive. Whether it can achieve its dual ambition, emerging as both a Norwegian ecological shrine and a Norwegian culinary hot spot, only time (and tide) will tell.
Under is set to open during the first quarter of 2019.