So you think that underwater architecture is an idea for the next millennium? One day, humanity may reach a stage where it will move beneath the water due to lack of space on land. Several visionary companies are already planning projects for ambitious underwater cities, on paper at least. Underwater development projects are in the planning stages in Australia, South Korea, France, and Belgium. One of their key factors would be energy self-sufficiency, especially the ability to generate energy from sea currents, waves, waste recycling, or CO2 conversion.
With the exception of a few enthusiasts, we’ll probably see the vision of underwater luxury living realized only after several decades, perhaps even centuries. Even today, though, there are several submerged commercial buildings already in the works. These include not only aquariums – an obvious component of this type of architecture – but also hotels, restaurants, and research centers, and even storage facilities. The multinational company Amazon, for example, already uses warehouses under the surface of artificial lakes.
The first underwater restaurant in Europe, located in the southernmost tip of Norway in the village of Båly, has become a unique attraction of this type among foreign properties. Norway has thus joined the ranks of the Maldives and China in combining culinary indulgence with an underwater experience. The harsh environment of the North Sea, however, makes this construction different from others of this type, in that it must withstand Norway’s harsh ocean climate. This remote location, where the northern and southern storms clash, is rich in biodiversity, creating a magical effect.
The restaurant’s name “Under” (also meaning “miracle” in Norwegian) aptly reflects its location and characteristics, lying half submerged at a depth of up to 5.5 meters. The design of the recessed monolithic concrete tube comes from the workshop of the architectural studio Snøhett.
At first glance, the interior may come across as a bit gloomy. Light streams in from acrylic windows and from a single, nearly 11-meter wide, panoramic window at the bottom. The interior is irradiated with a bluish sea light that enhances the underwater experience; this also changes with the season and weather conditions. A strong storm, for example, is the ideal environment for observing the most diverse species of fish and other fauna and flora. Textile ceiling panels that metaphorically resemble the sunset over the ocean accompany the visitor all the way down into the restaurant.
In addition to the restaurant, the building also serves as a research center for underwater life. The structure’s outer rough concrete surface will eventually function as an artificial reef, providing an ideal environment for marine biodiversity.
Even before the restaurant opened, thousands of bookings were made for a capacity of merely 40 seats. The owners try to entice guests by offering excellent food and drink alongside the extraordinary underwater experience, using only fresh and local ingredients. The Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard prepares a seasonal menu that always perfectly reflects the time of year. Fish, other seafood, and mushrooms with various types of berries from the surrounding forests are always highlighted on the menu; a luxurious tasting menu will run nearly CZK 5,500, or just over € 200. The food, of course, is perfectly paired with drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. You can purchase them with the menu from less than CZK 2,200 up to almost CZK 4,000 (€ 84 – 153).
Main photo source: Alex Waltner - www.swedishnomad.com
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