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Slip into the sea to try Europe’s first underwater restaurant

Dining beneath the waves is an absurd idea if it involves getting wet and trying to chew your food between hefty gulps of air, but construct a large room with glass walls and a ceiling so you can stay dry and the idea starts to sound pretty darn cool.

Several such restaurants have made a splash at luxury resorts in the Maldives in recent years, and now acclaimed architecture and interior design firm Snøhetta is making plans for an underwater restaurant of its own at a spot on Norway‘s most southern point. It’ll be Europe’s first-ever underwater restaurant, though only if you disregard this “scuba” restaurant in Belgium that you have to swim to before you can sit down and peruse the menu.

Called Under (a word that when translated into Norwegian means “wonder,” the architect points out), the restaurant will specialize in seafood (what else?) and accommodate up to 100 people.

Snøhetta’s stunning design resembles a large concrete box that appears to be sliding into the sea, but diners needn’t worry about the restaurant floating off into the night, or, indeed, everything sliding off their table. That’s because the building is fixed firmly to the rocky coastline, while the dining room — as you’d expect with any high-end eatery — is level.

From their table five meters below the waves, diners will be able to gaze out into the North Sea through a huge 11 x 4-meter window. Admittedly, the North Sea offers fewer vibrant colors and exotic fish than the Indian Ocean where the Maldives sits, but Snøhetta insists there will be “wildlife flourishing on the sandbank outside” that will change through the seasons.

The North Sea is known to get a little choppy on occasions — actually it’s considered to be one of the most dangerous seas in the world — so the architect is building Under with meter-thick concrete walls “to withstand pressure and shock from the rugged sea conditions” — reassurance that’s certain to calm the gastrointestinal tracts of some of its more anxious diners.

The architect is also considerate of the sea life that its concrete structure will soon be rubbing, or sloshing, shoulders with, offering up the local shellfish community as an example of how Under will fit in. Snøhetta explains that the outside of the building will have “a coarse surface that invites mussels to cling on. Over time, as the mollusk community densifies, the submerged monolith will become an artificial mussel reef that functions dually to rinse the sea and naturally attract more marine life to its purified waters.”

Besides operating as a restaurant, Under will also act as a research center “outside opening hours,” with a team of scientists  studying marine biology and fish behavior.

Snøhetta will start turning its spectacular design into a real, fully functioning restaurant in 2018, with the kitchen cooking up the first meals the following year.

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Trevor Mogg
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