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Biophilic travels: a considerate restaurant below sea level

in biophilic travels

Connecting a designed space to its surroundings is a biophilic objective that can take many forms – some more literal than others.

In this episode of Biophilic Travels, a restaurant that connects intimately to the ocean and – in doing so – crafts a one-of-a-kind experience for guests…

enriching local connection

Under is a restaurant that occupies a very special position in its environment: sunken underwater. Like a monocle, it dives below sea level, extending all the way down to the seabed. Thanks to a conscious and careful design, this concrete monolith manages to integrate gently within its surroundings: the rough concrete shell provides a substrate for marine life to settle, progressively turning the building into a reef.

An inspiring reminder of the responsibilities and opportunities that come with a considerate design approach: integrating buildings into the existing environment, mitigating any disruptive impact, and even enriching local ecosystems.

Underwater view of the building covered in marine life.
Credit: Snøhetta – Ph: Timon Koch
View of the dining space at night.
Credit: Snøhetta
Dining space with a panoramic view of the ocean.
Credit: Snøhetta - Ph: Juergen Pollak

an intriguing experience

Under offers a uniquely intriguing experience that encompasses every aspect. Reaching the main dining space is a mysterious three-level descent from land to underwater, with the second floor marking the sea line. Openings on the side of the building frame the changing environment, directing attention towards the uncommon vista. In the dining space, the glazed back wall transports guests into a deeply fascinating dimension. Providing a unique vantage point, the natural view creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect with marine life, notice how the environment changes according to the time of day, weather and season, and be amazed by water movements and light effects.

The space is left rather dark, letting the reflection of light through water set an intimate atmosphere that becomes increasingly intriguing as the night comes. A lighting choice that also shows respect towards the creatures that live underwater, becoming another example of how considering the natural world in the design process leads to choices that adapt new man-made spaces to existing natural ones.

A considerate approach extends to the dining experience as well. Built around an array of sustainably sourced local and seasonal ingredients, the menu stimulates curiosity and appreciation for the bounty of the surroundings while highlighting the importance of exploiting natural resources with restraint.

View of the staircase leading to the dining area.
Credit: Snøhetta - Ph: Ivar Kvaal
Slim window framing the sea view.
Credit: Snøhetta
Dining space with subtle light reflections.
Credit: Snøhetta - Ph: Tomasz Majewski

beyond dining

Under is more than a restaurant. Thanks to the unique vantage point it offers and the richly biodiverse area it lives within, the space doubles as a research center for marine biology and fish behaviour. Studies aim at getting a deeper understanding of the local fauna, its behaviour, and dynamics, to inform better conservation initiatives. One more way in which a design project can contribute to its surroundings in a wider way.

Wood claded reception area.
Credit: Snøhetta - Ph: Tomasz Majewski

As a whole, Under sparks an array of feelings that go from beauty to astonishment and respect, nurturing a balanced people-to-nature connection that values life in all its forms.

Biophilic design resources by anooi:
A Biophilic YearApplying Biophilic DesignVisual Library of Biophilic Design