Europe’s first underwater restaurant welcomed guests in Lindesnes, Norway on March 20th, 2019. I was one of the 24 journalists from 13 countries to come to Lindesnes to see the wonder of Under.
Lindesnes is located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline, near its famous Lighthouse. When we were there, we experienced a storm, with gale force wind and rain. It was glorious. We were told that sea storms from north and south meet here, as Under is situated at this wild confluence.
I had written about Under before, but seeing it allowed me a completely different sense. I found it to be unconventional, almost incongruous, unexpected in its presentation, yet unforgettable. Walking downstairs into the restaurant, I was struck with the elegance and simplicity of its construction. The first floor is a reception and greeting area, but downstairs is dominated by a huge window that reflects undersea life.
Marine species flourish in both briny and brackish – greenish blue waters to produce a natural abundance in visual biodiversity. Thus, Under expands the meaning of the word “restaurant," as the building also functions as a consumer education and research center for marine life. The restaurant will soon 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. Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomic Research (NIBIO) and other research centers seek to learn how wild fish can respond to sound signals and study fish behavior throughout the shifting seasons. The researchers will also help create optimal conditions on the seabed so that fish and shellfish can thrive in proximity to the restaurant.
In Norwegian, “under” has the dual meaning of ”below” and ”wonder.” Half-sunken into the sea, the building’s 34-meter (111 ½ feet) long monolithic form breaks the surface of the water to rest directly on the seabed five meters, or 16 feet, below. The structure is designed to fully integrate into its marine environment over time, as the roughness of the concrete shell will eventually function as an artificial reef. And, 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.
The restaurant seats 35-40 dinner guests every night, in a dining room protected by half a meter (or nearly 6 feet) thick concrete walls. Its culinary focus, created by the young Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard, is, in his words, “ to create a fine dining experience based on locally-sourced produce, with a special emphasis on sustainable wildlife capture. He brings an international, 16-person kitchen team with him. On our trip, he prepared two unique amuse-bouche plates – a faux-limpet on a rock, and then, ling cod created with a fish egg sauce.
“Under is a natural progression of our experimentation with boundaries," says Snøhetta Founder and Architect, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen. “As the new landmark for Southern Norway, it challenges a person’s physical placement in his or her environment. In this building, you are underwater, over the seabed, between land and sea. The Under experience offers new perspectives of seeing the underworld, both beyond and beneath the waterline.”
This project also underscores the Norwegian commitment to an eco-sensitivity and sustainability found in many other areas in this country. But specifically with Under, we as viewers can see the delicate ecological balance between over and under, and draws our attention to the importance of sustainable models for responsible consumption.
By focusing on the elusive co-existence of life on the land and in the sea, Under may be the first to suggest a unique way of understanding the nuanced human connections to its sea surroundings. Under may allow its diners to have a completely different dining experience: as they eat, they may redefine meanings of linkage and correlation to the ever-changing life under, with consummate wonder.
Visit their website to experience more: https://under.no/
Exterior Under, from the sea.